Three Touchstones Of Showing Up Acts Of Love Help During a Difficult Season

Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up. Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.

When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.

The news breaks our heart, and as believers, we promise to pray. In addition to praying, in our heart of hearts, we want to “do something”. We want to ease the stress in the lives of others who are hurting. Up until her passing on October 24, 2006, my Mama had a ministry of  sending greeting cards, and I have enjoyed doing this for decades. Sometimes, though, we want to do more.   I picked up a cool book recently, THERE IS NO GOOD CARD FOR THIS: WHAT TO SAY and DO WHEN LIFE IS SCARY, AWFUL, and UNFAIR TO PEOPLE YOU LOVE By, Kelsey Crowe, PhD. and  Emily McDowell.

This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.

Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:

(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.

(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”

'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.' -Ken, diagnosed with MS

“Even if we know from experience  how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”

“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”

'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.' 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

(3) Small gestures make a big difference.  (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a different. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable  to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking  ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then  responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.

In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Your Beautifully, Messed Up, Complicated Life Matters: Share Your Struggles

12 Reasons Why I Love Nurses

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

The Love Letter Challenge

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggle

52 Things I Love About You and Other Hand-Made Gifts

Fill Your Love Tank

Pack A Shoebox Full Of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

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

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

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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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I Am Still Confident Of This In The Land Of The Living Be Strong And Take Heart

To My Dear Friends of Pages From Joan: If you are new to my blog, I want to give you a big welcome and ask you to take a look at some previous, favorite posts I have linked for you at the end of this post. In addition, if a particular post speaks to your heart, I encourage you to share it with the ones you love! With Many Thanks, Joan

“I am still confident of this in the land of the living. Be strong and take heart.” Psalm 27:13-14

What do these words penned so long ago by David back between the time of Moses (around 1440 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.) mean?

'No matter where the poet (of Psalms) begins, he almost always ends in worship. This is no coincidence, this is where our journey must lead us. Augustine put it like this: 'Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.'' John Eldridge, from The Journey of Desire

God wants us to patiently wait upon Him, as we live out our earthly journey. He wants us to seek Him, as we gain strength from Him, and live with an authentic heart. Waiting for Him is not easy. Often it seems that He isn’t answering our prayers or doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation. That kind of thinking implies that God is not in control or is not fair. As believers, God is definitely worth waiting for. Lamentations 3:22-26 (one of my favorite passages) calls us to hope in and wait for the Lord because often God uses waiting to refresh, renew, and teach us. Let’s make good use of our waiting times as we discover what God may be trying to teach us in them.

With all the anxiety-provoking circumstances in our world, where do you and I turn for relief?

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither. C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)

The time was 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I was going around my home like an unbalanced, loon. Yes, I was going room-to-room, trying to find something important that I had misplaced, uttering an arrow (one I shoot straight up to heaven) prayer under my breath: “Please, Lord, can you help me locate this!?!”

I never did find what I was looking for, but I was thankfully able to reproduce the project with ease. Soon, I took my anxiety straight to my favorite chair in the den. Promptly flipping to Psalm 27:1-14, my heart began to quiet down as I read these words to myself:
New International Version
1The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:1-14

The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not. C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)

As a believer, where do you and I store our Bible? I’ve found that when I keep mine easily accessible, I am more likely to be inspired to actually open it on a more regular basis.

The above passage, which I randomly turned to, by no coincidence truly calmed me down. As I got still, slowed myself from running to and fro around the house, my perspective on life changed, and I felt more prepared to face my new day. Perhaps God used my frantic searching to draw myself to Him. If so, it worked! Just like every other time I have sought Him, I found Him.

On more than 250 million devices, and with an estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, the Bible is widely considered to the best-selling book of all time. It sells approximately 100 million copies annually. (Wikipedia)

Isaiah 64:8 “Yet, you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we ARE ALL the WORK of your hand.” (a creation by my sis, Laura Lea)

Where will you and I turn in times of uncertainty and anxiousness in the days and months ahead of us. How will we reach out in His direction when we are at a loss about which way to turn. My prayer for you and for me is that we will more often open The Word and feast upon His wisdom!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

It Is Well With My Soul

Wrestling And Seeking

Fertile Prayers

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fill Your Love Tank

Humble and Kind

Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel

Authentic Prayer

Where Is He?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

5 Lessons From A Horse

Ten Ways To Value A Teen

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

We Are Called To Be Brave

8 Traits Of An Authentic, Successful Woman

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Authentic Prayer A Continual Conversation

Does it make any difference to pray?

You know, the older I get, the more I realize the massive need I have for prayer in my life journey. It’s been said that getting old isn’t for sissies and it’s not for the faint of heart either!

Did you know? Praying is easier than you might imagine. God is faithful and gracious.

His mercies towards us as His children are brand new with each new day.

I want to follow that age-old verse found in First Thessalonians Chapter Five:

“Rejoice Always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Blaise Pascal, philosopher, 17th century

For me that means to maintain a grateful heart regardless of my circumstances. To carry on a continual conversation with my Creator. It also means I yearn to keep a short list of my wrongdoings as He lovingly convicts me and brings them to my mind and heart. I truly believe that prayer makes a big difference in my personal life journey.

And we are in the middle of the Lent Season where believers choose to say “no” as a gift to God…a way to purify themselves during this penitential season. So it’s a perfect season to ponder the purpose and place of prayer in your life and in mine.

One of the most helpful books I have ever read about this is Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by, Anne Lamott.

I recently ran across an anonymous prayer from the 17th Century.  Transparent and honest prayers such as this are received and valued by God. He is listening. Are we talking to Him? Are we listening out for His still small voice? He wants to hear from us and He covets a personal relationship with you and with me.

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will be someday old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom; it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tails of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person. Some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:33-34

What part does prayer have in your life journey? Did you know? There are many verses that tell us that when we choose to see God, we will find Him every time. I have definitely found this to be true for me…every time. If you and I find we do not feel close to God, Creator, guess who moved?

Let’s get the conversation going!

More favorite books about prayer:

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by, Charles F. Stanley

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by, Tim Keller

Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by, Priscilla Shirer

before AMEN: The Power of a Simple Prayer by, Max Lucado

Posts You May Have Missed:

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

What Is It Like To Be Ninety?

Wisdom On Aging

Peace Like A River

It Is Well With My Soul

No Expiration

Wrestling And Seeking

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fertile Prayers