Four Questions For God Time Of Solitude In A Monastery

With four questions for God, I recently took a time of silent solitude for 48 hours in a monastery. Those who know me well will find that unimaginable. <smile> I truly did, though, as I arrived on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at the Monastery of The Holy Spirit located in Conyers, Georgia. The ecumenical retreat house welcomes people of all faiths. A silent retreat is something I had considered doing for a long time. Now going on age 60 in six short months, one of my mantras is “Dream of it, then do it!”

I sensed God calling me, so I answered by reserving a small room in The Retreat House for a 48 hour stay. I am not claiming to have heard His audible voice. I never have, and perhaps never will this side of heaven. I did, however, have ‘a quickening’ in my spirit, and I am so thankful now that I responded. For any details you might like to read about this unique and sacred place, click here to visit their website.

The room consisted of a twin bed covered with a soft comforter, a desk with a lamp, a chair, and a place to hang my clothes. The shared bathroom was right outside my room. The meals in the silent dining area were both simple and filling. Snacks, fresh fruit, coffee and tea were available 24/7.

The community of monks, 40 strong, gathered five times each day to read scripture, offer up prayers for the world, singing and chanting the verses in unison and in harmony. It was truly a beautiful experience. I made it to every prayer time, including the 4:00 a.m. Vigils on both Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t want to miss a thing!

As I spent my hours in silence, I noted 4 questions I asked of God:

(1) What do You want to teach me here?

(2) How can I be more Christlike in any given situation?

(3) How can I best love/support my husband as he begins a season of part-time work?

(4) How can I best love/support our two married children and their loves in the current circumstances of their lives? Both couples are coming up to four years of marriage and are expecting their first child September 2018.

As I experienced the many shared prayer times, my own contemplative prayer time, took intentional time in The Word, and created a few collages, I found myself in a very sacred space. One I will treasure, always.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located close enough to Atlanta to allow a day visit for most.  The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day. 2-3 hours is the suggested time for a day visit. All are welcome to join The Monk Community during their prayer times, a time they are dedicated to praying consistently for our world. And The Lord knows how much we need these prayers more than ever. Guests will also want to enjoy nature walks while admiring the exquisite architecture, taking time out from the busyness of life.

In addition to joining The Monk Community for worship in the Abbey Church, visitors will want to take time out to visit the fascinating Monastic Museum full of images telling the story of how this place came to be. In the museum, there is also a video to watch about the life of the monks at the Monastery.

Posted in the Monastery Kitchen

There is a Monastery Garden Center and the Abbey Store where visitors will find many special and unique treasures, including books, crosses, and much more.

The stunning Abbey Church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia

For those interested in a little more structure and an overnight visit, many weekend, as well as midweek retreats are available in 2018. Some of these include Emotions: “Our cross and our crown” (Feb. 5-8), Embracing Deep Rest In Turbulent Times (Feb 9-11), Spiritual Rx for Stress and Anxiety (Feb. 23-25), Contemplative Prayer (Mar. 19-22), Image Faith & Photography (May 11-13), Yoga and the Christian Contemplation (May 25-27), just to name a few. The entire retreat schedule can be found on the Monastery website. Click here. 

Seen in the Monastic Museum during a self-guided tour, the Monk’s robes and hats from the original group who started this Monastery.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

This time of solitude and silence and contemplation was certainly time well spent for me.  I do realize that many cannot carve out the time for a day visit to a Monastery, much less an overnight stay. I recommend a time for solitude for every soul, but I recognize that this is nearly impossible for most. Therefore I encourage you to find small ways to be alone and quiet. A hot bubble bath? A walk in the woods? A visit to an open small sanctuary? With timer set, sitting in a comfy chair alone? I bet you, too, can think of some way, somehow, to have some quiet, solitude, a time of rich and rewarding contemplation.

“Be still and know that He is God.”

Psalm 46:10

In the hallway on the way to the dining area, there was a framed prayer by Theologian Thomas Merton. I found myself reading and rereading it several times each day. I wanted to share his thoughts with you.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) an American Catholic writer, and theologian.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Standing At The Crossroads

There Is No Expiration With Our God

What Is Happiness? What Is Joy?

Wrestling And Seeking

Where Is He? He Is In Us

It Is Well With My Soul

Brevity Of Life

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

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Brevity Of Life Love Your Peeps

Aussie, Holly Butcher passes away at age 27 from Ewing Sarcoma. She leaves behind an unforgettable message for those who want to hear it.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.' James 4:14

Have you heard? A final letter from a young, vibrant, Australian by the name of Holly Butcher has gone viral.

We know a bit about this horrific disease that took Holly from this earth. Sadly, our friends, Dixie and Benny lost their precious daughter, age 21, Christy to this same illness, Ewing Sarcoma.

There are many verses in the Bible about the brevity of our earthly life. Click here to read some of them.

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?”

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”

Climbing Mt LeConte with friends June 2016

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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Fighter Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Where Is He?

Hurting Hearts, Painful Pasts

Run To The Roar

No Expiration

Humble And Kind

Charlotte’s Web

A Grace Disguised

My Heart Will Go On

Music Moves Us

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong

Tears To Teddy Bears: A Story Of Courage

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Never Forget

Are You An Egg, A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

In The End, It’s Times Like These In The Following Images That Mean The Most In This Brief Earthly Life That We Live.

Girlfriends since Fernbank Elementary…the eight of us are known as FFs (definitely Friends Forever)
Walker and Noah 2016
Football, Friendship, Fellowship, Family
The freedom we enjoy in America is such an incredible gift. Many Thanks to all who serve, past, present, and future!!!
Leigh Andrews Fogg December 30, 2016
Christmas 2016 with Dad Page
Kathy and Joan on one of our countless Kennesaw Mountain Hikes
A few minutes to BE Still. (see Psalm 46:1;10)
Big Sis, Leah measures her little brother, Walker’s height

Contemplative Prayer
March 2017 Breckenridge Joan with my two awesome “in-law” kids, Jessica and Scott.
Anytime spent in a House of God
Kristen, founder of Kids Boost (kids boost.org) a non-profit which encourages kids 8-18 to give back to their communities!
My niece, Rachael and her family expecting #2 in this new year. They live in Wash State, but are close to us in Heart.
Grown-up, Meg takes a minute to hug on her MIMI.
Two of Meg’s Grandmas take time out for laughter!
Paul fixes Kay’s bike before Taylor’s Ride, October 2017.
Our quarterly Sister Session! Love this special time with my three sisters. Always feel like Mama is sitting there with us.
A Colorado visit with our Sam Hill Gang!
A local artist as he paints the majestic Rockies.
Leah and her Daddy-O March 2017.
Walker’s High School Grad Party, May 2010 with his GoodDaddy, My Daddy who passed on 11/11/13.
Newborn Donald Walker Page, born 2/27/92.
Our God calls us to have faith like a Mustard Seed. (see Matthew 17:20 which tells us we can move mountains with faith this size).
It is such a gift of this earthly life to take a few minutes to admire the handiwork of our God during a sunrise or a sunset.
Enough Energy and Strength to hike Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, June 2016.
The intricate details in Nature bring such delight and joy when we take the time to notice.
Our four-legged, furry friends make the best companions ever!

FRIENDS! Paul and Donny act crazy as they grill together.
Opportunities for Service whether Home Or Abroad! Here are two of the interpreters who worked with me in Rio de Janeiro on a recent mission trip.
NEW LIFE!!! “A BABY is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Carl Sanders
LEGACY! The gift of a loving, godly legacy never goes away. In fact, it only grows as a family grows. My late parents were married in 1947. My Mama was only 21 years old. They were missionaries in Africa for over five years, raised six children who are still married to our original spouses and were married 58 years at the time of Mama’s Homegoing in 2006.
I first met this group in 1976 and February, 2018, we will celebrate our 40th Reunion on Hilton Head Island over President’s Weekend!
Moving Our Bodies More To Encourage Better Health and More Strength.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES!
BOOKS! Have you visited a library lately?
My friend, Sarah, who was evacuated from Katrina in August 2005.
Just some of our fun, crazy, extraordinary extended family, December 2016.
time out during a Women’s Retreat for a walk in the woods at Lake Blue Ridge. Love our Piedmont Church Friends!
It is always a gift and a privilege to help one in need, like this little guy who is holding his shoebox provided by Samaritan’s Purse
As Mommy to Leah and Walker, it was always important to me to teach them to be givers. Thankfully, they and their spouses are such giving, compassionate, loving people. This makes my Mama heart smile really BIG!
Paul honors the life of his son, Taylor Heston Read who passed March 7, 2015, a life well-lived.
Collage art with my ladies at The Women’s Extension every other Tuesday morning fills me UP!
ART matters, here I am with artist, Holly Irwin and my original piece by Holly: Country Meadow. The girl in the piece is “me” when I was my younger self.
My two favorite girls in all the world. Leah, our daughter, to my right. Jessica, Walker’s wife to my left. St. Augustine Summer 2016.

 

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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Cheers To A New Year No Resolutions Here

The holiday season has come and gone and ours was very full, as I am sure yours was, as well. Here are a few pictures to illustrate some of my highlights:

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A post-Christmas and pre-New Years Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield hike with my long-time friend, Kathy
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A collage session on December 28, 2016, with my girls who currently live at The Extension and are battling addiction.

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I know you have special photos of your moments with friends and family and I am hoping you might share them in the comment space below!

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A Christmas Day 2016 visit with GrandDaddy Page

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Our son, Walker, visiting with his wife, Jessica, from St. Louis, gets a hug from our great-nephew, Noah on December 23, 2016
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Leigh Andrews takes a minute to read a note from her groom just before becoming Mrs. Michael Fogg on December 30, 2016.
Our daughter, Leah’s sis-in-law, Leigh waits for her wedding
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A beautiful ceremony for Michael Fogg and Leigh Andrews on December 30, 2016.
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Christmas Eve with our daughter’s in-laws, The Andrews
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A trip to the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden with Je, Jan and Cindy and some of Cindy’s family, friends from high school (aka: FFs) on December 11. 2016
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Our Walker Family Christmas Pizza Party on 12/26/16
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Story Time with our great-nephews, August (DOB: 3/1/14 to my right) and Noah (DOB: 6/18/14 to my left) on December 23, 2016.
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Our Six Around The Tree
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Honoring our sweet Kelsea West, and her groom, Troy with an engagement party on 12/17/16
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Leah and Scott celebrate with the future Mr. and Mrs. in a photo booth Leah created!

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Having been around for nearly six decades, the whole subject of New Year’s Resolutions causes me to yawn. What is the use of them? What is the benefit of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves in a world that already has enough stress as it is? Now, don’t get me wrong! I do believe in goals and change and progressing towards a better life. But I have also learned, that for me, anyway, that it is more about the journey itself than it is about the destination. I want to be kinder to myself, more compassionate towards my fellow humans, and more faithful to my God.

Here are a few things that I found on social media that caused me to pause, to be still for a moment, and consider how I want to navigate into this new year: 2017.

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So, I encourage you, along with me to say:

‘THANK YOU for being in my life, and helping me to continue to learn, to grow, and to smile past the struggles, while counting my blessings.”

Thanks to all of you out there who follow my Pages From Joan. Please help me this year by sharing any posts that resonate with your heart.

Related Previous Posts That You May Have Missed:

Fire The Bad Boss Inside

We Can Embrace It

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

Your Beautiful, Complicated Life Matters

Give and It Will Be Given Unto You

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

Humble and Kind

Peace Like A River

My Own Little World

It Is Well With My Soul

Gratitude and Grace

Time Away: A Women’s Retreat We All Need Time To Refuel

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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).

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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.

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

“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

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A large group of ducks on Lake Blue Ridge Saturday afternoon.

img_6662img_6660We 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.15095430_10208012373692815_6339721073766000874_n

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.

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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.

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Sheila’s PJ’s!
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Party Favor, thanks to Susan, plain and peanut M&Ms!

img_6675img_6686 img_6683 img_6677img_6676img_6681Make 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!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Girls Need Time Together: 3 Illustrations

Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It

The Long and Winding Road

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Honesty With The Truest of Friends

8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

Are You A People Pleaser? Five Tips To Help You Stop

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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Scheduled just following the recent election, we all agreed to not discuss our thoughts on the outcome. This agreement left us plenty of time for expressing to each other where our HOPE lies and lots of time for laughter and fellowship.

We Can Get Advice From A Trail Beauty From Ashes

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a recent gift from my friend, Kathy
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The Virginia Creeper Trail on October 15, 2016. Taylor’s friends ride on!
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Taylor’s Shelter from the storms of life…

There are life lessons to learn at every turn…even from a trail.

One week ago today, Donny and I were in the quaint town of Abingdon, Virginia for another visit. Many, like us, drove from all around to attend the 2nd annual Rails To River, Ride For Taylor, gathered to celebrate a life well lived. As I took the 8.5 mile bike ride from the Abingdon trailhead to Taylor’s shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail, I kept thinking about “beauty from ashes, he brings beauty from ashes.” How does one bring beauty from ashes? Only God, our Creator can do that and on this Saturday, October 15, 2016, we witnessed again and again him doing just that, bringing joy to sorrow, bringing beauty from ashes. I know God’s working, so I smile.

...and provide for those who grieve, to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oils of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3 NIV

As the day continued at Alvaredo Station, we saw examples over and over of this very thing: Nearly 200 hundred gathered… a gorgeous sunny, fall day… a wonderful bluegrass ensemble…loads of family and friends together… an inspirational word from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club President… Taylor’s buddies traveling from far and wide, even from Hawaii to join in the celebration of Taylor Heston Read’s life… “Taylor’s Prayer” being read in unison by all the guests led by his Dad, Paul Read, and many more examples of God bringing beauty from ashes.

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Taylor’s Grandfather, David and Taylor’s Mom, Kelly, listen as Paul shares with the group.

Speaking of “Taylor’s Prayer”, his Dad, Paul shared the back story with the folks that gathered to celebrate Taylor. Paul said:

“Whenever we were about to say grace, Taylor would eagerly agree to bless the meal, knowing that I may take entirely too long if I was the one who gave the thanks. So Taylor was known for his short, simple, yet meaningful prayer.

Dear God, Thank you for everything we have and hope everybody's okay. Amen Taylor's Prayer
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Paul Read, Taylor’s Dad makes remarks before leading us all in Taylor’s Prayer at the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor
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Taylor’s shelter is located here along The Holston River and beside The Virginia Creeper Trail.
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Hanging out in Taylor’s Shelter!

WE are all looking for good things. We are all seeking joy. Sadly, sometimes, “good things” and “joy” can be very difficult to find. That does not mean they are not there, though. It may be easier to understand this as you read here below the inspiration shared by VCTC President, Wayne Miller at the 2nd annual Ride For Taylor:

There is a story in Genesis 21 about Hagar and how she was lost in the wilderness and suffering from thirst.   The text casually mentions in 21:9 that “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It does not say that God instantly created that well on the spot, or that the Almighty tapped a little celestial H2O into her canteen. Instead Hagar’s eyes are opened to a water source that has been there under her nose all along.  One real spiritual life task is simply showing up, being open to God’s grace and care wherever we are. What we need is here, but sometimes we need new eyes to see it. Like Lucy and Edmund who walked through an old wardrobe to emerge in C.S. Lewis’ wonderfully, magical land of Narnia, we too are called to walk through life with our eyes open, ready for the impact when a glance at the familiar suddenly points to the holy, to God. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem, “Aurora Leigh”: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.”

The parables and teachings of Jesus feature many natural objects: seeds, rocks, birds, flowers, streams, trees, and I believe Taylor would have added fish to the list. Jesus used such familiar sights to direct attention toward the ordinary, and on the sacred, revealing truth about the invisible God. Jesus picked up something utterly mundane and said, “The Kingdom of God is like this.”

The Virginia Creeper Trail, then, is a laboratory of the spirit, for the hidden Hagar in all of God’s children. In this era of rugged individualists, we are wooed into believing that we ‘make it” in this world through self-generated sweat and ingenuity. We foolishly become our own gods, often unaware of our desperate need to connect with the true God. Though linear in direction and precise in termini, the Creeper holds infinite possibilities for grace around every corner, every milepost, and trestle. Here on this trail my eyes have been opened on more than one occasion to wells I’d never noticed before, wells offering the gift of refreshment from a Source completely outside of self.  

Linger.

Look.

Listen.

Drink deeply of the Trail’s secrets, as Taylor did.

What we need is here.

(Note: original devotion was penned by former Pastor Frank Honeycutt of St. John Lutheran Church, Abingdon, VA)

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WE will ALWAYS miss Taylor! Forever, until we see him again.  His legacy lives on. Click here for the song You Should Be Here, that makes Taylor’s Aunt Allison think about Taylor every time she hears it being played.

Click here to listen to a new rendition of an old beloved hymn, sung by The BYU Noteworthy Members, 9 “angel-like” women singing out in nature by a river.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

We’ve Got Your Back

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

A few more pictures from our day:

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Joan and Kelly, friends for 40 years, just before we head for the trail for the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor!”

Climb Every Mountain The Great Smoky Mountains

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“Climb Every Mountain,

Ford Every Stream,

Follow Every Rainbow,

‘Till You Find Your Dream.”

(from the musical, The Sound of Music)

Do you have dreams for the future?

In any given moment, we are guided by one of two maps: a vision map, which is a deliberate map for our future, or a default map, which is made up of our past. Choices made from our default map---our repetitive, automatic programming---DO NOT nourish our flames, nor do they move us closer to our dreams. AND even though they might feel right to us, they do simply because they are familiar. The right questions wake you up! from page 23, The Right Questions: 10 Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life, Debbie Ford

Have you begun to let some of those dreams slip away? Nearly one year ago, my hiking buddy, Kathy invited me to join her and three friends for a hiking adventure. I immediately said yes, not knowing that this past week, our eight-hour hike up, viewing the sunset from a 7,000 foot vista, and trekking back down in six hours would inspire me so.  After my recent climb up to the Summit of Mt. Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains, my dreams have been rekindled. Laughing, singing Rod Stewart, songs from musicals, Carole King, and JT, telling long stories, and “unplugging for a time” all served to rejuvenate and inspire the five of us!

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thanks for this, Melissa Chambers! Let’s Do This!

Especially in light of the horrific current events in Orlando, Florida, it is easy to feel discouraged, defeated, and hopeless, too. If your dreams are trying to die on you, watch this for inspiration!

It has been said that “getting old is not for sissies”, and as I draw nearer to the end of my fifth decade, I am finding this to be true. Life, at any stage, takes great courage. Climbing a huge mountain has helped to decrease my fears and rebuild my courage for the days ahead.

I was able to celebrate my friend, Cyndi’s 60th birthday this past Saturday and a friend I saw there shared that she found it hard to do things for herself during this season of her life, with grown married children and grandchildren now here. I told her about the 3 nights I snuck away to climb Mt. Le Conte with friends, and how doing that ( I am hoping) will make me a stronger and more loving woman, Mother, and Mom-In-Law, as well as a Grandma to our (future) grandchildren. <smile>

So what are the dreams you have had in your past that might be trying to slip away because of time and circumstances? What’s on your list, what “mountains” would you like to climb to gain serenity and hope for the future? Our adventure happened to be extremely physically challenging, but your dreams and my dreams can be whatever they are, unique to each one of us: keeping a journal, visiting a historical nearby community you’ve been thinking of,  increasing your fitness, snagging 15-30 minutes each day for some solitude, some alone time, and more. Take a few moments to sit quietly, perhaps with pen and paper at hand, and jot down a few of your dreams.

Dreams CAN come true, like the rigorous hike that five women, including a social worker, three nurses, and a teacher, all in our fifties took on June 7-8, 2016.  Though there are no showers or electricity at the top, the Mt. Le Conte staff took great care of us feeding us delicious, family style meals. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will use mostly pictures to share our experience with you. Click here to see a cool, short video about the LLAMA Train that takes place on Trillium Gap Trail 2-3 times each week!

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We hiked up this trail. The first 2.7 miles is part of the AT!
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We hiked down this trail. We were able to see the llamas several times!

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Getting started at Newfound Gap. The first 2.7 miles of Boulevard Trail is part of the AT!
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My hiking buddy, Kathy.
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Connecting with Nature.
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A panoramic view of the vistas and Kathy.
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A favorite spot: Myrtle Point
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A fellow hiker taking in the sunset.
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A panoramic view of our sunset on June 7, 2016, Cliff Top.
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Pure Joy pouring from my new friend, Linda.
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Lisa staying warm at sunset, Cliff Top.
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Our cabin. The bucket was for the hot water to wash our faces with!
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Recorded on my Apple Watch after the hike down.
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Tho we saw no bears, there were lots of sightings in the days just following our visit.
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At 6,593 feet, Mt. Le Conte is the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies.
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The llama train travels 3 days each week, delivering supplies to the Lodge.
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Almost to the end of Trillium Gap Trail.
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Grotto Falls, about 1.5 miles up from Trillium Gap Trailhead.

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10 Ways To Value A Teen

I know, it’s that time of year…nearly May.

I'm raising a teenager. What's your super power? Anonymous, but familiar to all parents of teens!

This is the season, many Moms have declared, “This month is busier than December!” Preparations for graduations, class parties, final exams, field days, sports, the list goes on and on. Our two are grown and married, but still, especially as a former teacher, I remember those days!

Even if yours are babies, toddlers, or “just a thought,” if you have dreams of being a parent, it is not too early to be thinking about these things. Children are wet cement, little sponges, and we only get one chance to make the right impression on their unique and beautiful lives. Let’s do this well!

Back in 2002, when ours were just 14 (daughter, Leah) and 11 (son, Walker) I taped the following on a mirror where I get ready for my days.

Walk by faith, even when you cannot see. 2 Corinthians 5:7

I read this list often and I believe it helped me in our raising of two kids. While we always wanted to expect respect from our two, this list served as a good reminder that teens need to know they are respected, as well.

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Ten Ways To Value A Teen:

  • Frequently applaud and praise your teen
  • Encourage decision making
  • Support your teen’s good decisions
  • Compliment your teen’s appearance
  • Look for positive gifts and point them out
  • Admire your teen’s gifts
  • State your appreciation of your teen
  • Ask for your teen’s help and advice
  • Express gratitude for your teen often
  • List positive qualities of your teen and read them aloud to yourself when times are tough

I hope this list is as helpful to you as it was to me for more than a decade taped to my mirror. We definitely had conflicts, and some of them were really big. That is a normal part of parenting and children who are growing into themselves.

Even amidst the friction, we tried to always love them without condition and affirm them as unique individuals. Whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend of the family, your loving presence is the greatest gift you can give a growing child or teen.

Let’s be present in the lives of children.

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Appalachian Trail Dreams

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Call me crazy, but I have Appalachian Trail Dreams… dreams about climbing part or all of The AT …starting in Georgia and plowing through the states one-by-one, all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. My friend from high school, Del Wynne recently posted an AT contest where her friend, who is like a niece to her, Gina was one of the final 12 finalists out of 74 entries. When I clicked on to watch Gina’s video, and to cast a vote for her, I took a few minutes to view the other eleven applicants while I was there. I found them each one so intriguing and it has lit a small flicker on my dreams to one day hike part or all of The Appalachian Trail. Click here to view the inspiring finalists in The 2016 Badger Sponsorship Contest, and consider voting for Gina or another favorite. Voting ends at 10:00 p.m. on January 31, 2016.

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The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. [pullquote]The moment our memories are greater than our dreams we are dead in the water.” Dr. Ike Reighard [/pullquote]The trail is approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the precise length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The path is maintained by 31 trail clubs and multiple partnerships, and managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms. The trail conservancy claims that the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Others have managed to perform a “round-trip” of the trail where they thru-hike from one end to the other and then turn around to thru-hike the trail the other way, otherwise known as a “yo-yo”. Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to these pursuits. (from Wikipedia)

What are your dreams?

It is always good to

keep our dreams alive!

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Hiker takes in the scene on Mt. LeConte

I may not yet have plans to climb The AT, but I am going on a short trip in early June 2016 to climb Mt. LeConte in The Great Smoky Mountains with three girlfriends. The distance to LeConte Lodge is 5.5 miles and a net climb: 2,560 feet. We will stay over at The Lodge before hiking down the following day. I was able to do some scenic hikes in August 2015 in The Rocky Mountains and blogged about it here and here.

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Wearing Karl’s Kure tees with high school buds in CO! Prayers for Karl & his family!

As long as we have breath,

let’s keep dreaming!

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Ten Ways To Savor Autumn

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Our first-born, Leah is an October Baby
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“Princess” Leah, October 1989

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

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Our Parents were married October 1947
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We were married October 1982

While I cannot say that Fall is my absolutely favorite season, it is truly one of my favorites! [pullquote]Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald[/pullquote] I LOVE all four seasons for different reasons, but we’ve always cherished and savored Autumn as our season to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and even heavenly home goings of both my mother and my father.

Ten Ways To Savor This Autumn Season Before It Gets Away:

1)  Open car windows, letting in the cooler air.

2) Notice the majestic, changing landscape.

3) Take a hike in the mountains. 

 4)  Make an apple or pumpkin pie.

5)  Wrestle in the fallen leaves.

6)  Warm by a fire.

7)  Light a pumpkin-scented candle.

8)  Carve a pumpkin.

9)  Take in a football game with great munchies and beverages.

10)  Make a list of ten things you are grateful for in Fall 2015. 

One thing our family is truly grateful for this fall is the improved health of our Dad and GrandDaddy, Donald A. Page, Sr. After a very serious bout of double pneumonia earlier this year. He is feeling much stronger and we rejoiced with him as we celebrated his 85th birthday with him this past Tuesday night.

What is on your list of things to be grateful for today?

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Don Page, Sr. born during the depression on 10/13/30 celebrates his 85th Birthday as his only child, my husband, looks on.