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.
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.
Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:
Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:
1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”
2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”
3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”
4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”
5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”
6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”
7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”
8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”
9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”
10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”
11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”
12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”
13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”
14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”
15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”
16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”
Wow, just wow!
The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle.
Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace
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.
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.'
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
'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.
We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).
Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned. Like most women, our calendars are always full of engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.
If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar
We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together, bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.
At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.
As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.
Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!