With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”
It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.
This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!
How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.
Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.
How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.
I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. 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. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
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.
Let’s Start Today!
P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!
A good number of years ago, when we still had a high-schooler living under our roof, my husband and I enjoyed homemade apple cobbler with spray whipped cream. Unfortunately we were out of vanilla ice cream which eliminated the chance for à la mode! This after dinner delicacy was actually so good that I decided to surprise our son with the same treat. He was up in his room, so I went ahead and fixed this dessert without even asking him if he wanted it.
When I had it all ready, with whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar, and 3 musketeers chocolate syrup, I called him down.
He was very pleased when he first arrived in the kitchen…then upon his initial observation, he asked about the date on the syrup.
I responded with the truth: “I have no idea what the date on that syrup is.”
Ok, now, don’t be shocked, but he decided to check the date and it was old, like a couple of years past the expiration date…I am not kidding!!! ( I wish I was!) Needless to say, it went straight in the trash and he fixed himself a new dessert!
WE had some good laughs about dates on products that were in our nearly twenty-year-old home and how we might want to check them out a little more often and a little more carefully in the future…
Soon, our son was checking the dates on some of our other things…the milk had a good date, the yogurt was okay, too.
Isn’t it funny how some stories are simply unforgettable! Now Walker is a husband and a Daddy, yet, I can still see his determination to check all of our expiration dates. <smile>
Later, just before retiring for the night, our son and I started talking about other “expirations”, like letting too much time go by before we open the Word.
The tragedy of life is not death...but what we let die inside of us while we live.
If we are not careful, we wait too long to go to the Word for the answers to the big questions that we have in our lives. Just because we do not take the time to look in that direction, does not mean the answers are not there. If we are not careful, our days go by and we do not reap the benefits and the strength that it is in the Word for each of us to grab a hold of. As we age, we realize more than ever that our lives on this earth have an “expiration date”. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us:
There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die.
So, maybe you want to go check the dates of some of the products you have in your refrigerator, and perhaps you want to take stock in the date of the last time you delved into the Word as well.
Do something today that you have been putting off because we are not promised tomorrow. Only God knows the number of our days and He’s not telling us that number.
The Good News is that once we are His,
considering God and His Word, there is NO EXPIRATION DATE!
It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.
Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?
Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.
As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there.
I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.
As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!
The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)
Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home) I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket. As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)
Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.
Thanksgiving 2019 comes late this year! November 28, 2019. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. But first, tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of our dear friend, Debra O’Dell, age 58, who passed recently from a cancer battle. Debbie has been quite the fighter and lover of life, as a Kindergarten, a missionary, a Mom, a wife, a devoted servant in our church and the kindest friend you could ever have. Deb will be greatly missed!
I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.
Last night I had a chance to hear The Doobie Brothers live at the Cobb Energy Centre. Donny and I went with two couples, long-time friends of ours. In fact, I went to Fernbank Elementary with Jan and Jane Ellen. We’ve shared a 6-decade friendship.
The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band from San Jose, California. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. They have been active for nearly five decades, with their greatest success in the 1970s.
The other day as we were driving along, the song In The Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics came up on our Sirius station. As I listened to the words and then googled the lyrics to read along, I thought about the phrase, “Courageous Conversations” that our pastor, Dr. Ike Reighard taught us nearly a decade ago…having that difficult discussion with our loved ones even when it is awkward or uncomfortable. Our family took this phrase to heart, applying it to problems, to issues, to discussions that came along. We had courageous conversations often…. agreeing to disagree many times.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between two major military holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Sometimes there is confusion about the two, so I am hoping by the time you have read through this short post, you and I will have a clearer understanding of these important holidays. Click here for a brief video that does a good job of showing us the difference. EVERY DAY is a good day to raise the flag!
In a nutshell, here is some info about each of these two important holidays:
****Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. (Wikipedia)
***Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans, that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I; major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. (Wikipedia)
I hope this brief explanation will help you and me, our children, our grandchildren, as well as others we meet along the way to gain a greater clarification regarding Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Now that Memorial Day 2016 has come and gone, summer is officially here. Enjoy every moment!
Some other Pages From Joan posts regarding our veterans:
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
We experienced an unbroken circle of life and love this past weekend as we once again gathered to celebrate a life well lived. The 5th annual Rails To River is held every October to celebrate the life of Taylor Read, who left us too soon in March of 2015.
A unique shelter, designed by Taylor’s sister, Megan was dedicated during the first ride in 2015. Following an 8-mile ride on this scenic trail, Taylor’s shelter is the destination for a picnic, Bluegrass music, and fellowship with friends and family. The day could not have been more perfect. The late summer heat had finally lessened, the rain stayed away, blue skies were wide open, and fall was truly in the air on the Virginia Creeper Trail.
'Dear God, Thank you for Everything we have, and we hope everybody's okay.'
Wayne Miller, the past president of the Virginia Creeper Trail shared a few words: “We can all experience Heaven while on this beautiful trail that Taylor loved so much. Taylor’s Spirit has been felt all day on the ride and now at his shelter. Let’s all enjoy this very special day.”
Yes, Taylor was with us, with many of his friends from both high school and college, many now married and a few are new parents. Taylor was with us, with his cousins, his Aunt Allison and Uncle Brian from GA, his grandparents from VA, TN, and GA. Taylor was with the dozens of The Read’s friends who watched him grow from a baby into a handsome young man. A guy who loved his family so much. Taylor loved people, golf, baseball, and God. A student who worked hard in school and loved hanging out with his friends. Taylor was with us as we remembered the day we received the unexpected news of his passing, but more than that, we recalled the days that he lived, laughed, and loved.
'We're not going to build just a little lean-to for our Taylor.'
As I looked around the shelter area and under the big, white picnic tent, I was moved by the wide variety of ages present on Saturday. Babies, babies, and lots of children, too, were all around for Taylor’s celebration. There were no less than four “pull-alongs” for those littles who are not quite old enough to bike the trail.
This circle of Life and Love is growing and Taylor Heston Read’s Legacy is expanding, too!
Extra special for our family was having our first grandchild, Michael Scott Andrews, III, “Tripp”, riding in one of those pull-alongs, towed by his strong Dad, Scott. Having Leah, Scott, and Tripp experience this meaningful weekend with us for their first time was just so awesome!
And our friend, Kathy Owen joined us from Pensacola, Florida for her first Taylor’s Ride. I bet it won’t be their last. We loved having my college friend, Delores and her Mama, Pat join us all in our Air BNB in Abingdon!
So, the next time Summer is drawing to an end, we’ll be making our plans to make the annual trip to SW Virginia, an area that has become dear to our hearts, just like Taylor Heston Read has.
Previous Posts about this inspiring family, The Reads, that you may have missed:
Thanks to our long-time friend, Keith, we met on a blind date on October 7, 1978 for a University of Georgia home football game. On October 2, 2019, my husband, Donny and I celebrate 36 years of marriage.
The Dawgs conquered Ole Miss that day,in 1978, with a score of 42-3. What an awesome omen, a sign of good things to come regarding our future together.
We all know that a successful marriage doesn’t just happen. There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for couples. More than half of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages fail.
Today, I have for you some musings on marriage, 13,505 days since we said “I Do”.
Marriage is hard work. This relationship is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are great.
You cannot change your spouse. Don’t even try! “The greatest roadblock to a great relationship is trying to force a change through bribes or threats.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Keep your dreams alive together. “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together becomes a reality.” John Lennon
Respect and love your spouse! A good, strong marriage is based on respect.
Don’t keep secrets from your spouse. “The fewer secrets you have, the happier you will be.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Give your spouse attention. “Gift the love of your life with a hold on social media, undistracted, untelevisioned, unhurried attentiveness.” Mary Anne Radmacher
“…do not let the sun set upon your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 “Make sure you never, never argue at night. You just lose a good night’s sleep, and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway.” Rose Kennedy
Arguing and disagreeing is perfectly normal in a good marriage and fusses make the reunion so much sweeter. I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.
No one deserves unfaithfulness in a marriage! If a person is not happy enough to be faithful to the chosen one, one would hope they would just be honest and make their unhappiness known instead of sneaking around with another.
Each spouse should have the room and freedom to be who they are as an individual. “Love allows your beloved the freedom to be unlike you. Attachment asks for conformity to your needs and desires.” Deepak Chopra
No one, absolutely no one should be verbally or physically abused in a marriage relationship. Take a firm stand against this kind of treatment. We teach people how to treat us.
If this appeals to you and your love, take occasional, brief trips away from one another. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. We’ve been doing this since the beginning of our 35 year marriage and believe it to be a great thing.
When choosing a guy, take note of how he treats his mother. This may be a good sign about how he treats women, in general.
Develop true love and an alignment of the same fundamental values in going for a successful marriage. “…a cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
At all costs, avoid criticizing your spouse, especially in the presence of others. It NEVER helps, and often makes things worse.
Listen To Each Other. “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is not saying.” Anonymous
CARE deeply for your spouse. “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Share and grow a common faith. “Faith is the highest passion in a human being.” Soren Kierkegaard “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.
Persistence always pays off! “Don’t give up. There are too many naysayers out there who will try to discourage you. Don’t listen to them.
The only one who can make you give up is yourself.” Sidney Sheldon “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize
how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison
No matter who the bread-winner is, share the chores in the home and the care of the children. This builds both teamwork and camaraderie. “Many hands make light work.” A Proverb
A good marriage is an intimate and loving relationship which gives both partners security, friendship, companionship, support, comfort, and deep love that penetrates every aspect of life. None of this can be achieved without work and sacrifice.
For a marriage to succeed, both partners must be committed to its success. Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being (Ephesians 5:31-32). Henry Cloud; John Townsend, Boundaries in Marriage
Once your children are married, try your best not to give unsolicited advice. And if they do ask for advice, help them with that one thing, without bringing the subject up again. (unless they do)
Look Around. Who are the ones you hang out with most of the time? Be sure they are folks who are as committed to a long-time marriage as you are.
Say “I Love You”, when you say “Good Night.
Now that we are first-time grandparents, we are relishing this amazing season together. Supporting each other’s efforts as we hold these tiny ones, care for them, and pour our hearts and souls into loving them.
And another great tip added by my friend, Jan Kelly: Practice good manners with your spouse: please, thank you, excuse me, I’M SORRY (often!) Forgive Every Day. (thanks, Jan!)
What are some of your thoughts on how to build a successful marriage? Post your comments below or on my Facebook Page: Pages From Joan