What’s Happiness? What's JOY?

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What’s Happiness?

What’s Joy?

Donny and I recently made the 2.5 hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina to Blue Ridge, Georgia. Normally a scenic route along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, our drive was cloudy and smoky indeed from all the recent rain and flooding. In the passenger seat, I reminisced about our recent holiday season, considering the coming Christmas of dear friends who had a great loss in the past year.

An article posted recently by my friend, Mary K. gave me even more food for thought on this subject: 20 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Happy.

As the miles slipped by in the torrential rain, I thought about what brings me the most happiness and joy.

I came upon my usual, steadfast three:

Faith….Family….Friends

Later, I ran across the following anonymous writing and it fit with my musings as we traveled last week:

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another.

Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough, and we’ll be more content when they are.

After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with.

We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.

We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our partner gets his or her act together when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice holiday, when we retire.

The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges.

It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. Alfred D. Souza

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

So, treasure every moment that you have and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time…and remember that time waits for no one.

So, stop waiting until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until winter, until your song comes on, until you’ve had a drink…. there is no better time than now to be happy.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Work like you don’t need money,

Love like you’ve never been hurt,

And dance like no one’s watching.

~Anonymous~

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So what will bring us happiness and joy in 2018?  

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Pictured here are some of my favorite things from the past years.

But as you will soon see…”The best things in life aren’t things at all.”

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The Reason for The Season
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celebrating Jim’s birthday on 12/20/15
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a Missouri map added to my bracelet from Walker and Jess
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a tiger added to my bracelet by Leah and Scott
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a copied poem and my “original art”
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an unexpected gift from my friend, Susan F.
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six out of eight of our FF group, friends since Fernbank Elementary
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my dear friend, Kelly
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GrandDaddy Page
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my teaching companion , in Rio and dear friend, Deb
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grands of our dear friends, The Carters
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loving the resemblance between my sis, Kathy and our daughter
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experience of JOY with these two on 11/14/15
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brings me JOY knowing this ornament is now on another Page tree
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thankful for Donna Kapper’s opportunity to give this bear a special journey….Read about this on an earlier post: “Tears To Teddy Bears”
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service in a Santa Shop with my girl
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fun with friends and family as David leads us in caroling
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Oh my, love these West girls, whom I have known since “utero” : )
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special friends, The Kramers, join us in our home
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“sister sessions” with my three sisters every couple of months
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33 years of marriage and still going strong…onward and upward…He makes me smile…
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Our niece, Katie with her first-born, Noelle…Read more about our six 2014 babies in an earlier post: “Carve Your Name On Hearts”
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~~~the memories of my parents are with me daily~~~
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Cindy’s  Christmas Eve, story time legacy lives on even after they are grown
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4 of us together at Krueger wedding
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2015 Fourth of July in Barcelona
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My big bro, John Wade and Jeanie…and Grandparents to this precious trio below
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A three-way “Heart Huddle”-Walker Grands-all first borns, all born within four months of each other in 2014. Read more about them in my post “Carve Your Name On Hearts”.
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women’s retreat May 2015
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a rose in a vase at the Biltmore Inn
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Tim and Ringer
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a church in the distance as we traveled from NC to GA
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my student in Rio, so excited to receive this brand new recorder
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our awesome interpreters in Rio
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friends in our home, Bonny and her daughter, Stacy
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my sis, Laura Lea and Leah have a moment to catch up on a sunny Thanksgiving Day, 2015
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My sis, Laura Lea plays “motor boat” with her new grandson, Roman
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a Thanksgiving walk in the woods with 3 of my favorite people
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Christmas Day 2015 with Mocha
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“Great”-nephews, August and Noah
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supporting Karl’s Kure
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on mission in RIO
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R and R at the lake
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two of my favorite things: red geraniums and Gracie
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these college friends since 1976 have brought so much sunshine into my life
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Walker and Jessica, Summer 2015
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Scott and Leah, Summer 2015
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FRIENDS are a gift!
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Thank goodness Donny and Gracie know how to relax!
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Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Lamentations 3:22-23 “His compassion for us never fails and his mercies are new every morning.”
People are made of stories, not atoms.

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Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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God Bless America And Beyond May Angels Fly Beside You, May Heaven Steel Your Hearts

As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!

Tailgating in Atlanta on a beautiful Saturday, December 2, 2017 with two of my favorite girls. My daughter, Leah in the middle and Jane Ellen, my long-time high school friend.

As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.

The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.

During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.

So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.

As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.

Our young friend, Sam, learns early about the sacrifices of our military.

Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.

Our young friend, Will shows his respect at a military grave site.

Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.

God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts. 

In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?

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Two Trees Symbolize New Traditions Remembering Our Mothers

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Walker and Jessica’s tree in St. Louis.
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Leah and Scott’s tree in Marietta.

With both of our two grown children, married in 2014, with homes of their own, pulling these two trees out again in 2017 symbolizes to us that we are starting new traditions at our house.

New Traditions…perhaps that is your thought, as well. Finding that “new normal”, whatever that is…This might be the first Christmas since someone you love dearly passed away in recent months, perhaps someone important to you is very ill this holiday season, or your loved one is far away from you this Christmas.

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The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree, those gifts are friends, faith, family and the one you love.” Anonymous 

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Last December, I was mulling around our attic trying to come up with some Christmas decor that I no longer need. I filled up a big box to haul to the M.U.S.T. Ministries Donation Center, hopefully in plenty of time for some folks to find them and use them in their own homes this Christmas. While up there, a mystery pursued. There were 2 cardboard boxes both marked lightly with an ink pen “Christmas Tree”. I knew that our family had a small ceramic Christmas tree when I was growing up and I remember as a little girl plugging it in every year.

Being from a family of six children, I was delighted to have this tree in my home. I had not, however, before this year, taken the time to unbox it since it was placed in my attic with my other Christmas things. My Mama passed on October 24, 2006, and this was the year I would light the tree in our own home! The mystery was that there were two of them. When I had a chance to ask Donny, he started remembering that when his mother was near death in 2010, she kept asking him, “Did you get the Christmas tree?’ He comforted her by telling her that he had gotten it, but he was not completely sure that we had. You see, his Mom lived in South Florida and became very ill in mid-February 2010. Donny, Walker and I had to drive her from here to Marietta along with as many of her things that we could fit in two cars, and we weren’t sure if the tree was there. Many boxes were placed in the attic after her passing on March 6, 2010. This year, the discovery of the Christmas trees was made. The trees are identical, both reminding us of our dear Mothers who gave us life, love, nurturing, laughter, and planted our roots deep. Though the second tree was not from Donny’s childhood, both trees now serve as a symbol of love and strength as we remember our mothers at Christmas and always.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Psalm 1:3

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35 Rules For Women, Young And Old Especially For Daughters

Rules For Women Young and Old,

Especially for Daughters.

My precious daughter, Leah, with her loving Aunt Laura Lea, Lake Blue Ridge

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.

One of my sisters, Kathy and me

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.

Kelly and Megan, Taylor’s Shelter, October 2015

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.

My sister, Mary Ann, serving at a clinic with my beautiful niece, Amy

6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.

Peg and Marilyn, October 2017, Abingdon, VA for Taylor’s Ride

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.

College Reunion # 39 Marietta, Georgia 2017

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.

Pam and Wanda, May 2017 Lake Blue Ridge Women’s Retreat

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.

Robin, Rhonda, and Susan, The Dinner Team at our May 2017 Women’s Retreat

12. Never walk through an alley.

13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.

Aimee Copeland  founder of Aimee Copeland Foundation, empowering people of all abilities to lead fulfilling and joyful lives

14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.

A Hike on our Women’s Retreat May 2017

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….

Leah doing one of her favorite things, surfing!

18. Your body, your rules. Always.

 Paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge

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.

Hiking Mt. LeConte with girlfriends in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, June 2016

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.

My brave and beautiful niece, Pamela, Mommy to two. Here with son, Roman.

22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)

My beautiful niece, Emily with her niece, Noelle

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.

Artist, Holly Irwin visits The Women’s Extension with me 2017

25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.

My Girls! Leah and Jessica, Summer 2016

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.

Sunrise Cruise GG, 2016 Lake Blue Ridge

30. You have enough. You are enough.

Cocktails and Carols with David Brewer, December 2016

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.

There Is Always A Road You Can Take Back Home

33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.

My Mama, my best friend, (1927-2006)

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 the daughters, granddaughters, nieces and women you love.

Hurting Hearts Painful Paths Challenges That Come With Depression And Suicide

Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated?  Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.

Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.

However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.

“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.” Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life

Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.

My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)

Questions are left unanswered. This reminds me of a song from one of my all-time favorite movies, “A Walk To Remember” starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. Click here to listen to Someday We’ll Know.

Yes, we must increase our dialogue, open our hearts to more sharing regarding depression, mental illness of all kinds, and death by suicide.

Let’s Start Now.

Click here to watch this five-minute video with my friend, Kristen sharing her heart with us regarding her mother’s death by suicide.

After Kristen’s Mom’s passing on November 5, 2011, a spark grew inside of Kristen’s heart to start a non-profit called Kids Boost. 

This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.

Here is how it works!

  1.  Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2.  Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.

3.  Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.

Kristen, founder of the Non-Profit Kids Boost is going places with her enthusiasm and great ideas!

4.  Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.

5.  Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.

Let’s please start now talking more openly about the pain and truth of mental illness….

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No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict

A Grace Disguised

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Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years.  You can listen to the song here.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.

'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.' Unknown

Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.

“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”

While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.' Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow.  By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.' Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017

I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will. 

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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Musings On Marriage 12,775 Days Since We Said "I Do"

10-2-82
10/2/82

Thanks to our long-time friend, Keith, we met on a blind date on October 7, 1979 for a University of Georgia home football game. Today, my husband, Donny and I are celebrating 35 years of marriage on October 2, 2017.  The Dawgs conquered Ole Miss that day 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.

LIFE is an adventure with this guy by my side!

Today, I have for you some musings on marriage, 12,775 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
    Since we first met in 1979, in June and then again in August, we’ve celebrated 76 birthdays together!
  • 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.
    My Daddy escorted me on October 2, 1982 reminding me of the word, EQUANIMITY. Just as he did with my 3 sisters as they were escorted on their wedding days, the focus was on equanimity: mental calmness, composure, and coolheadedness. We’ve all come to use this as a theme to live by.
  • 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
    Our Family! Breckenridge, Colorado, March 2017
  • 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.
  • 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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Can We Simply Do The Next Right Thing?

Humble And Kind

The Love Letter Challenge

4 Ways To Love Our Peeps

Pack A Shoebox Full Of Love

52 Things I Love About YOU and Other Handmade Gifts

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

I Am Still Confident of This

Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel

Wedding Tips

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Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel A Play On Words

'Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen---that stillness becomes a radiance.' Morgan Freeman

It has been some weeks since I have showed up with a new post and I have missed you all! I took a few minutes to link several of my favorite posts here at the end. I hope you will check out some of these you may have missed.

We’ve had a summer filled with fun and musing about my book, which I continue to work on. With the start of a new year, along with a cool, fall season, I plan to post two to three times a week in the days ahead. Thanks for following along and sharing my posts when my message resonates with your heart.

I have to thank my sister, Amelia Kathryn Seder, more often known as Kathy for this play on words that I will be sharing with you today. I am blessed with three sisters and you can read more about them here and here.

Often, we share group texts or emails between the four of us, reminding us of our common faith, our love of family and important updates. We are glad we have each other to enjoy. We give and receive encouragement. It is always a joy to send things back and forth to one another, especially when we cannot be together for one of our coveted Sister Sessions. Each of us has a unique and long lasting love for our beloved Mama, and when we are together, we feel like Mom is right in our midst. We truly miss her every single day, but we, each one, see “her” when we look in the mirror.

STEAL: Sometimes we simply need to steal away from the crowdedness of our daily life, all activities, and be quiet with ourselves. Sometimes it is not our bodies so much, it is the busy activity of our thoughts. (see Luke 5:16 to see Christ’s example of stealing away)

STILL: As believers, many of us will immediately think of one of my all-time favorite verses…“Be Still And Know That He Is God...”, Psalm 46:10. It is often just so very difficult to be still, however, we have to be still to hear. Did you know? Some of the translations of this verse say to “Cease Striving”. What a good reminder for each one of us! And as I am taking a few minutes to be still, I love the promise we find in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

STEEL: After we have stolen away from the noise and chaos of the world to be still, we can breathe better. We will feel more ready, better equipped to steel ourselves for whatever comes our way. It is easy to have a good attitude when everything is going our way or the way we expected things to go.  We know that even in the most dire circumstances, it becomes more about our response to events than the actual happenings in life. Steeling ourselves beforehand is a great way to be prepared. Chuck Swindoll penned a great word about this very thing in a short poem called ATTITUDE.

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

This poem is the most helpful when we are dealing with difficult situations. Oftentimes, circumstances we don’t expect or wish were different. We cannot control what other people do or say and cannot always change how things turn out in our lives. One thing, we can always rely on, is how we react to what is happening.

How will we choose to start our days?

Steal away, if only for a few minutes. Be Still. Face our day head on, we will go forward, like steel, no matter what our day brings.

Many have been dealing with evacuation and loss in the recent, horrific storms. Our love and prayers go out to each one impacted by these storms and fires that are circling our globe.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Authentic Prayer

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Wrestling And Seeking

Humble And Kind

Peace Like A River

It Is Well With My Soul

Gift From The Sea

Ten Ways To Value A Teen

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

5 Lessons From A Horse

Where Is He?

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Four Awesome Small Businesses Breckenridge, Colorado

While there are countless businesses and restaurants throughout Summit County, in Breckenridge, Colorado,  four awesome small businesses caught our eye.

Main Street in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Our family so enjoyed the time we spent this past week in Breckenridge, Colorado. Such a quaint town, filled with amazing restaurants and stores. Any foodie would be happy to check out all the options for meals here!

As we meandered down Main Street, it was fun to see some really great small shops, not just thriving, but seemingly doing really well.

'I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non successful ones is pure perseverance.' Steve Jobs

I love to support “Mom and Pop” businesses and these four reminded me of this type of shopping.

All four businesses have great opportunities for purchases via the web, so if they sound interesting and unique to you, I hope you will reach out to them!

(1) The Glass Art Company 

Owner Jesse Denny

970-232-0720

theglassartco@gmail.com

411 Main Street Breckenridge, CO 80424

One thing that was unique about this small business was the many items  offered by the owner, Jesse Denny. A cool number of glass containers including wine glasses, mason jars, and decanters, Denny also will personalize a full bottle of wine with a wedding invitation or other special memento.  All items can be shipped within days to any location in the U.S. Pup, Betty, the welcome committee for this glass art enterprise made for an extra special visit!

Betty welcomes guests as they arrive at The Glass Art Company in Breckenridge, CO.
Small business isn't for the faint of heart. It's for the brave, the patient, and the persistent. It's for the overcomer. Unknown

(2) The Continental Divide Winery

Only opened around Christmas 2016, this has become a cool and comfortable place to hang out with Leanne and John Bellncula while tasting Colorado wines, California wines, or some other varieties.

Cheers!

Behind every small business, there's a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns, cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores--these didn't come out of nowhere. Paul Ryan

(3) Cabin Fever: Mountain Lifestyle

Gina Shirley

122 South Main Street

Breckenridge, Co 80424

970-547-8121

This was one of my favorite shops in all of Breckenridge! They have such a great variety of wildlife art, home decor and accessories. Leah and Scott were able to find the perfect gift for Scott’s Mom since she helped them out with their pups while they spent time with us.

Here are a few things we picked up from Cabin Fever to use in our little piece of heaven in Blue Ridge, GA.

(4) Fresh Soap Company

Heather Hansen, soap artist

heather@freshsoapcompany.com

411 South Main Street

Breckenridge, Co 80424

970-423-7194

Operated by sisters, Kim and Heather, this is a quaint business that has been located at 411 South Main Street for the past five years. If you are looking for a unique gift for a friend or family member, perhaps someone who is recovering from surgery or going through some other difficult season of life. They have a wide variety of comforting items to add to a personalized container ready to be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

I still remember when our children were small, and we would stop in at Stancil’s Pharmacy in our Brookstone neighborhood. Our friend, a pharmacist, David Stancil owned this small business for many years. It was always a treat to stop in and visit with David! He treated our children as his special friends, and always had a lollipop to give to them.

  As we travel around and in our own communities, let’s consider supporting smaller businesses!