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!!!
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.
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
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!
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.
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.'
(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.
(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?
This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom!
My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.
Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.'
Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.
I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light.
Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.
Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, “Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”
It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!
First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds, Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.
My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.
Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.
In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!) Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!
Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction, soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.
During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.
One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”
Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.
We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past.
John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)
I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!
Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.
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)
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!
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.
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.
New season. New start. What does it look like from your view?
I am taking a time out here on Pages From Joan amidst changing landscapes, new hopes and dreams.
The phone conversation took place only a few days before my Mama’s passing in October of 2006. I hadn’t summoned the courage to cry with her about her imminent death following a few short months of an esophageal cancer diagnosis. So when I returned to my home from a visit, the emotional dam broke as the tears flowed. “It’s a new beginning, Joan,” my Mama said softly, knowing that her time here on earth was drawing to an end.
We're all just walking each other home.
Today, that thought returns to me as I have decided to start another new beginning for me. Starting now, for a season, I will focus more on my book project and less on my Pages From Joan.
With each passing day, I am making more self-discoveries. Is that how the aging process works? I believe so, if we are open to the breakthroughs that can come with constructive comments by those who love us the most.
And yet, I am at a fork-in-the-road again, wondering how well I have been taking care of myself of late. I feel out of balance. How about you? Is it time for a new beginning in your life journey? Remember the story about the oxygen mask? Click here to read it. Do you consistently put your O2 mask on before helping others? The moral of the story being that you can’t pour a glass of water when you’re cup is empty. Ironically, this scenario is more a lesson in giving than it is in selfishness.
I so appreciate you, my readers, the ones who have followed my Pages. You who have encouraged me so along the way, sending me messages, comments and even notes in the mail. THANK YOU!
I plan to take a few months furlough with a projection to return later this year. Meanwhile, I would love to stay in touch. If you would like to communicate with me via email, through Facebook Messenger, or even by being pen pals, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is your path littered with hard circumstances today? In my upcoming book, you will see this life lesson my Mama taught me is just what you need! If you have not read Part One, (linked above), please read it first.
As I signed up, I felt the sadness start to ease.
On that Monday, I arrived at my appointed time, unaware that someone would be placed in my path who would change my life. I soon met Sarah L. Johnson, a Katrina evacuee who had resided in New Orléans her entire life. Sarah was 85 years old, had never married, and had no children. Funny, she said she had always wanted to visit Atlanta, but didn’t realize she would come like this. The story of how she got here is a story in and of itself. After the initial evacuation, though there was a power outage, Sarah and her fellow residents returned to their apartments. When she heard banging on her door, she glanced out the window only to find that the water was rushing into the streets and rising rapidly. We now know that the levies had broken down, but at that time, the residents had no idea what the rushing water was from. They hurried to the roof of the building where they stayed overnight until a helicopter could pluck each one of them off the roof. When boarding the helicopter, in all the confusion, this 85-year-old woman lost her walker, her glasses, her shoes, and worst of all Sarah found herself separated from a friend who was holding all of her IDs for her.
'One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.'
Sometimes our greatest disappointments are God’s appointments, a chance to bless another person’s life. A friendship soon developed with Sarah which would change my life for evermore.
When I first met Sarah, she was just waking up in the Red Cross Shelter. I helped Sarah with her laundry, got her breakfast. She talked with me about her strong faith in God and how surely God had a plan for her even in this crazy situation. Feeling more encouraged, at the end of my shift, I gave her a hug, thinking I’d never see her again this side of heaven.
A few days later, I received a phone call from my friend, Vicki, who had worked at the same shelter, telling me that Sarah needed to see a cardiologist and could I help her to get in to see someone. I had the privilege of taking her to a doctor the very next day. Her heart was just fine and this was the beginning of a sweet friendship, one that I will forever cherish. After four weeks at the shelter, Sarah moved to a wonderful nearby assisted living facility where even though she was the only African-American woman there, she felt love and acceptance from the staff and the other residents. She visited my weekly Bible Study at my friend, Sara’s home, worshipped with us at our church and even gathered at my sister’s home for a huge family lunch!
'Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.'
Sarah Johnson shared her heart with me and told me why Psalm 27 was her mainstay scripture. Mama and I took her to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, and she told Mama and me all about her personal and vivid memories of the Civil Rights Movement.
Later, Sarah was happily returned to New Orléans to her same first floor apartment. I believe that our God gave me this opportunity to serve and help Sarah during a time when I was experiencing a broken heart over the loss of my precious friend, Jil.
Are you feeling down and going through a great disappointment today?? If so, look up and all around.
Watch for the divine appointment that is waiting around the corner for you to become an uplifting messenger to someone today.
My older brother, John Wade, recalls how Mama was a great listener, who could easily empathize with troubled souls who fell in her path. Mama and Dad joined the local organization of “Parents Of Marines”, providing both comfort and support to those parents whose sons died or became severely wounded during the Vietnam War, which John Wade fought in. They continued this support even after John was honorably discharged from The Marines to begin college. Kathy remembers how Mama taught us to always look people in the eyes when speaking with them, and always be on the look out for ways to serve.
I am so thankful to our Mama for teaching this important tool for moving forward when things seem impossibly hard. I use this tool often, and I hope you will, too!
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
I’ve especially been thinking about Chapter 2~”Keeping the Love Tank Full”.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse deserts, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardships our plight in life.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages
I think it is a good idea, now and then, for us to take a look at self-love.
Yes, everyone needs love, that is clear, but we also need to extend love to ourselves, giving ourselves mercy and grace as we journey through this life. Again, we expend a lot of time and energy caring for and loving the people in our homes and we must not forget to love ourselves…treat ourselves with kindness. That means we cannot allow ourselves to be in the habit of repetitive self-criticism, self-loathing, working ourselves to exhaustion, living an unbalanced life with no time for rest, relaxation, restoration and recreation. Click here to read an earlier post to inspire you on ways to nurture yourself: Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It.
How is your love tank looking? Are you running on empty? Let’s not wait for others to fill it up, let’s fill it up ourselves! Give yourself an “atta girl!” or an “atta boy” today. Be beautiful and unique YOU!
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. for beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
The above message came from British humanitarian and actress, Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) when asked to share her “beauty tips.”
As we travel along this long and winding road called LIFE, there are sure to be treacherous curves and bumps in our path that slow us down and perhaps, even bring us to a halting stop.
Plant a seed of friendship; reap a bouquet of happiness.
Lois L. Kaufman
These can be catastrophic and tragic or hopefully, more likely, a sadness in our hearts over some circumstance that has transpired in our journey. It is August first, and that means school for many, many kids, parents, teachers and administrators alike. August first also marks my 58th birthday. I have never been shy about sharing my age, probably because of 3 things my Mama taught me about aging. Among other mantras, these are things she said often to me:
Age is a matter of the mind, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
I’d rather be this age than any other age I can think of.
These friends truly are the FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN OF LIFE!
These friends truly are a GIFT FROM GOD ABOVE.
Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) was born in Nijkerk, Holland, and came to the United States in 1964. A Roman Catholic Priest and psychologist, he has taught at several prestigious universities, including Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame. He is the author of over twenty books, among them The Wounded Healer and With Open Hands, with a more recent one being Discernment: Reading The Signs Of Daily Life. I have often been inspired by Nouwen’s writing and once again, I am moved to share his thoughts on “what really matters.”
When we honestly ask which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness…makes it clear that whatever happens in the external world, being present to each other is what really matters.” Henri Nouwen
As I travel along on my long and winding road, I desire to be this kind of friend to those God puts in my path and I am so grateful to those whom He has provided to minister to me in my times of need.
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the chance to sit it out, or dance. I hope you'll dance!
Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance
Posts you may have missed related to my long and winding road:
Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.
Donny and I took a short trip to St. Louis, Missouri this past weekend to visit our son and his bride of nearly two years. Though the flight was short, the turbulence was worse than usual, causing the attendants to suspend beverage service for awhile. In addition, the landing was one of the most tumultuous we’ve experienced. Still, as we exited the plane, as always, I thanked the attendants, and I looked straight into the Captain’s eyes, saying, “Thank you for the safe travel.” Some of them are surprised by my statement, but all seem to appreciate it. You may want to try this the next time you step off an airplane! I never want to take traveling mercies for granted, another lesson my Mama taught me.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
Arriving at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday gave us a nice long visit with our children, Walker, a Ph.D Philosophy student at SLU (Saint Louis University) and Jessica, a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Jess is also working on a Masters in Nursing Education. Jessica’s birthday was the Wednesday before our arrival, so we got to celebrate with her! Both carved out time from work and studying to play with us for the weekend! We love the old architecture and homes scattered through this Midwestern U.S. city. We visited them Easter 2015 and you can read about that visit by clicking here.
Did you know? In 1904, St. Louis hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics, becoming the first non-European city to host the Olympics.
The best part of our entire weekend away was just being together. Whether we were sharing a meal, getting a haircut, loving on Louis the cat, planting flower pots, playing cards, hanging out talking, or heading to church.
I sustain myself with the love of family.
After a special time with our family, it was good to return to our home, even with all the congestion and traffic. “There’s no place like home.”
Thanks, Walker and Jess for your awesome hospitality! We look forward to our next trip when Leah and Scott can join us!