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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What Is Happening? Write It Down! A Quick Idea For Remembering

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lots of memories and mementos in these little books

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.

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a 1996 entry from Leah’s little memory book
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an 1992 entry from Walker’s little memory book just a month after he landed into our family
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pictures included in Leah’s little memory book

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.

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another entry from Walker’s book

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.

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a Thanksgiving note to our son, Walker, when he was 2 1/2

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.' Abraham Lincoln

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!”  

Love, Mom

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!  

Love, Mom

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!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

The Love Letter Challenge

Children Are Wet Cement: Make The Right Impression On Their Lives

Leave A Notation

Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today

A L’Arche Community A Community Of Pure Love

Have you heard of L’Arche? I had not heard of it until I read about it recently in a book I picked up along the way: Why Good Things Happen To Good People By, Stephen Post, PhD and Jill Neimark. (2007)

Here there is a very pure love you don't experience in other places in society. Here you learn that innocence is beautiful, that the disabled can be like living prayers. a L'Arche assistant

One thing I have learned for sure is that a L’Arche Community is a community of pure love. L’Arche is French for “the ark,” a reference to the floating refuge Noah created at God’s command. It began in 1964 when Frenchman Jean Vanier opened his home to two developmentally disabled adults.

To work for community, is to work for humanity. founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier

He had no grand plan. Vanier simply believed people of differing physical and mental abilities could live together, respecting the capabilities of one another. What began as an informal invitation from the heart has grown into the world-renowned International Federation of L’Arche Communities, a network of more than 6,000 individuals in 140 communities and 31 countries. There is even a L’Arche community in my hometown of Decatur, Georgia, which opened its doors in 2012. Born in Switzerland in 1928, Vanier is a devout Catholic, but these communities welcome all, regardless of their race, culture, abilities, or disabilities, as well as people of all faiths, including atheists. In each community, the healthy (called “assistants) and disabled live together.

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When Jean Vanier was asked to share one of his most memorable L’Arche stories, this is what he said:

“I will never forget Eric, whom I met in a local psychiatric hospital where he had been abandoned since he was four years old. He was then a blind, deaf young man of 16 who was unable to walk or speak. I had never met anyone so filled with anguish. Even the nurses and helpers found him too difficult to be with. He came to our L’Arche community in 1978, and I had the privilege of living with him and a few others for a year: dressing him, bathing him, helping him to learn to feed himself. Little by little, he began to discover that he was loved and seen as a person, unique and important. He gradually grew more peaceful. During the evening prayer we had in our little home, he had changed, and I too had changed. Eric, above all, make me realize that each person is important no matter what their abilities, disabilities, religion, or culture.”

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In 2015, Vanier was awarded The Templeton Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world.

The whole pain of our world is the pain of walls. We've had enough of loneliness, independence, and competition. We all begin in weakness and end in weakness. We are all broken in some way. The only answer to life is to love each other.

Perhaps it is my personal experience of growing up with Robin, my first cousin who was born with Downs Syndrome, or perhaps it’s my own growing awareness of my weaknesses and brokenness, or maybe it was the example of compassion shown to me by my loving parents, but my heart is soft towards this ministry of L’Arche communities. I hope to visit L’Arche Atlanta, in Decatur in the not too far off future.

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What do you think about the L’Arche concept? What are some other ways we can continue to break down the tall walls of discrimination that are based on race, culture, economic circumstances,religion, and/or disability?

Other related Pages From Joan posts you may have missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

Have A Care Kit Party

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heart Song.

Aimee Copeland: Living Life

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Read It Loud How To Make A Connection

Earlier today, on Tuesday, I was reading aloud to my father-in-law and his neighbor, Bob. Having always loved reading to Leah and Walker, I discovered, once again, that reading aloud is a great way to make a connection with another beating heart. I hope by the time you finish this short post, that you, too, will be inspired to share reading with someone in your world.

Back in the mid-1970’s, I was a high-schooler when I would drive myself to Wesley Woods Retirement Community to visit my paternal grandmother, Anna Mae Walker, known as Mamaw to all of us.

Dying is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else.” Morrie Schwartz to Mitch in Tuesdays With Morrie

 Mamaw had been widowed for well over a decade and our Mama encouraged us to visit her as often as possible.

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My Daddy and his mother, our Mamaw

Those were lonely days for our grandmother and you could sure tell it when you walked into her small apartment. Mamaw would be sitting in a comfortable chair, in a pretty dress, looking out the window. Her hair would be in a tight french twist on the back of her head. Our conversation went something like this: “Hi, Mamaw, ” I would say with a smile. “Oh, hello,” she would answer softly, always a little surprised to have a visitor. After our greetings, there was little more to talk about, and now I wish I had thought of the idea to read aloud to her. Back in the early 1960’s, just after her husband had passed away, our grandmother lived in a children’s home as a piano teacher for all of the children. The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Morrie Schwartz to Mitch in Tuesdays With Morrie 

She loved journaling, reading, and all sorts of things. Reading aloud to her would’ve given us interesting things to talk about.

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Dad Page

Recently, I came up with the idea to read aloud to my husband’s father. We are about half way through one of my all-time favorite books: Tuesdays With Morrie, by, Mitch Albom, and we try to read together on Tuesdays in honor of Morrie Schwartz.

I mentioned this life-changing book in an earlier post when I wrote about Oseola McCarty.

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March 14, 2016 marked one year since we moved Donny’s father by ambulance from their hometown of Thomaston, Georgia so that we could keep a closer eye on him here near our home.

Life is a series of pulls back and forth…A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.” Morrie Schwartz to Mitch in Tuesdays With Morrie 

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Undergoing treatment for double pneumonia, Dad was immediately placed on a ventilator, which we were thankfully able to wean him off of within a few weeks. Saying these past 14 months have been tumultuous is an understatement. Dad has been in and out of the hospital too many times to count, rehabilitation for physical weakness, and he celebrated his 85th back on October 13, 2015. Today, even though he remains under the care of Hospice, and still gets confused about things, he is correctly working word puzzles in the newspaper, and he is walking with the aid of a rollater.

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Dad Page and his neighbor across the hall, Bob have been enjoying the story of Morrie Schwartz. We have laughed a lot and the reading has triggered many good memories from both gentlemen who are living out their last season of life. The next book I plan to share with them is The Last Lecture, by, Randy Pausch.IMG_0430

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Is there someone in your path who might like

some one-on-one time with you?

It might be a small child or someone like Dad Page.

Elementary age children and teens can read to their grandparents.

Reading together will make the world a better place.

Consider reading aloud one of your favorite stories!

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Gift From The Sea

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two unknown little people on SSI illustrating freedom on the beach

IMG_0404Do you love the beach as much as I do? There is just something about it. The continual ebb and flow of the surf will forever remind me of the running moments of our everyday life, constantly moving, with its inevitable ups and downs.

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Our son-in-law, Scott, with Dory and Gracie, Monday, 7/18/16.

There are many gifts from the sea: rest, sunshine, freedom,

recreation, reflection, togetherness, nature, just to name a few.

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The vast empty beach on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

One of my favorite books is Gift From The Sea, by, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Did you know? Anne Morrow Lindbergh died at the age of 94, in 2001, after a life filled with flying over seas, walking along beaches, and living on islands. Just three years after her marriage to Charles Lindbergh, a famous aviator, their first-born was kidnapped and tragically killed on March 1, 1932. Up to this time, the couple lived in the U.S., but they moved to Europe after this horrific event for privacy. Later, the Lindbergh life was filled with five married children and twelve grandchildren.

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But what I really have loved about this remarkable woman and author, is this book that she penned in 1955.  Lindbergh shares so much wisdom about women and even more, about mothering. I have read and reread this book dozens of times, mostly always with my feet on some sandy beach as I make notations about what I am reading. Here are some photos from pages of my copy where I have made notation after notation.

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Just inside the cover, I noted the beaches I was sitting on.

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In her book, Lindbergh chooses a variety of shells and compares them with different seasons in a woman’s life journey. If you are planning a beach trip in the next few months, I hope you will consider picking up a copy of this book and taking it along in your beach bag down to the surf. I would love to hear what you think about Lindbergh’s wise and beautiful book. Lindbergh was forever surprised that a book written to work out her own problems as a woman, spoke to so many other women, and it still does, today.

Our Fernbank Elementary School girlfriend group of eight tries to travel to the beach whenever we can whether it be Seaside, Florida, Hilton Head, South Carolina, or St. Simon’s Island, where Mary and her sister, Beth have their parents’ villa. While there, we’ve lately tried to go on an adventure. In 2015, we traveled a short distance to both Jekyll Island and Sapelo Island. This year, though only three of us could make it, we decided to head to Cumberland Island, the southernmost of the Golden Isles. This island is located on the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia and is part of Camden County, Georgia. The island is 17.5 miles long, with an area of 36,415 acres, including 16,850 acres of marsh, mudflats, and tidal creeks. There is no bridge to the island; most visitors reach the island by the Cumberland Ferry from St. Marys. (from Wikipedia)

After a yummy, casual brunch at the Cedar Oak Cafe, Mary, Jan, and I ferried over from the quaint, coastal town of St. Marys and spent a few hours on the island, seeing the ruins, many wild horses, and picnicking on the empty beach. Not knowing for sure how far away we were from the ferry pick-up, we had quite an adventure half speed walking and half jogging, making it right as they were closing the gate and starting the ferry’s engine! Here are just a few pictures of our time on Cumberland Island:

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Cumberland Island Adventure
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Just off the ferry, Mary and Jan take the oak lined path on Cumberland Island
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Wild horses among the countless oaks, and…
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…in the surf on Cumberland Island
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Mary and Jan map out our Cumberland Island adventure in front of the Dungeness Ruins

Time with girlfriends, regardless of our age, is so vital, and Lindbergh talks about this in her book, too. Beach trips like this offer an opportunity to air our problems, make discoveries about ourselves, laugh, play, and compare our life experiences. This is one of the best gifts from the sea!

“The waves echo behind me. Patience, faith, openness, is what the sea has to teach. Simplicity…Solitude…Intermittency…but there are other beaches to explore.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001)

Our nephew, Titus Ray and his parents recently visited Cannon Beach, including Haystack Rock, on the Northern Coast of Oregon. Haystack Rock towers 235 feet over the beach.

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Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA
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Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA
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Titus, age 2, in front of Haystack Rock, on Cannon Beach.
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My favorite beach book and me, 6/30/15 in Corsica, France

10 Things Organized People Do Every Day Good Food For Thought

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It feels so good to be back here with you today!

Funny thing is while I was purging, reorganizing our home and my heart, I ran across a bunch of information about how to be organized, including this list of 10 things organized people do every day. I have a file full of organization tips! LOL! Still, I struggle. I found an article titled “Give All The Things In Your Life The ‘Annoy OR Joy’ Test” that gave me some good insight!

I wish I had read this when I was a young Mommy with two small children.

Hasn’t it been said that creative humans have a hard time with organization?

Maybe I could use that as a reason for my continual struggle!

Here are a few things I did during my Pages From Joan sabbatical:

1) I rejoined Weight Watchers, with my biggest priority being not so much a smaller size, but continued good health. I have been a lifetime member since 2008, but I need some extra help now and I am admitting that out loud. (I promise that unlike Oprah’s latest ads, I will not be eating bread every day!) I will apply their latest strategy which is to add self-care to the existing list of watching food intake and increasing activity.IMG_87952) I cleaned out and purged most spaces in our home with the help of my husband and  Hand In Hand Organizing. If you need help with your home, I suggest you contact Professional Organizer, Katina. She will get in the space with you or write-up a DIY Plan for a space which includes a maintenance plan. Here are a few of our successes:

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*organized craft room shelves, including holiday decor, gift shelf, and party decor*
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*Daddy’s old obstetrical table makes a great gift wrap station*
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*game and dress-up closet has been a disaster for quite some time*
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*now it is ready for our future grands (fingers crossed!)*

3) As a huge book lover, this is big! I went through every book in our home (hundreds, likely more) and really purged, passing some on to friends and family, giving a few to Goodwill, and my favorite, donated a nice collection to our public library.

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*books set aside for our Public Library*

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Inspired by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, I “thanked the books for the service they gave to us all these years.”

4) I rested.

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Yes, this is me with bookend canines watching a movie with my family.

5) I tried some new recipes. With my healthy eating plan, Donny and I got into a variety of stir-fry dishes. YUMMY! And our Valentine Treat was an individual chocolate chip cookie made in a coffee mug. Find this easy, awesome recipe here at In A Southern Kitchen.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie In A Mug!

6) Lastly, I worked on my book about Lessons My Mama Taught Me and researched topics for future blog posts. It is my hope that you will continue to find musings here that inspire and encourage us and help us to learn new things. Thanks to each and every one of you for following along and sharing my Pages From Joan. It is great to be back here with you all!
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Let’s Listen To Children Like Mattie J.T. Stepanek


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Let’s listen to children like Mattie J. T. Stepanek. Five books written and illustrated by Mattie are available at Amazon.com, some for as little as $0.01 plus S/H. Responding to my latest post, What Feeds You and Me?, my friend, Jan Weber commented: “I have all of Mattie’s books and I am going to reread them again. Thanks for reminding us of that remarkable lil boy!”

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Yes, Mattie was a remarkable young man, wise beyond his years. Rereading much of Mattie’s lifework reminds me that I want to listen more to the children in my path. This life we live can preoccupy us and we have to keep in mind that children rely solely on us for their livelihood.  Children truly are like wet cement.

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Leah and Walker 1992
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Leah and Walker 1992

When our two were small, I had to constantly remind myself to not rush them…their little legs could only move so fast!

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

One tool that has always helped me, and still does to this day is deep breathing. Click here for details.

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November 1993, Walker, 20 months, Leah 5 years. Kennesaw Mountain National Park

If I was running late, it was not their fault, but mine. It always takes extra minutes to get shoes and socks on their small feet and arms through their tiny clothes. Having little ones can teach a Mom and Dad so much if they are listening.

As Mattie says,

“If I close my eyes and sit very still,

it’s so easy to listen to my heart song.”

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Don and our great-nephew, August, listen to heart songs together.

IMG_8208 IMG_8241 IMG_8247As I’ve sat with Donny’s Father this past week, I’ve been reminded of being a Mommy to two young children. Those who are aging with dementia, like Don, are much like young children.

Thanks for sharing this. I have read his books. I Google the interview that Oprah did with Mattie and his mother whenever I need to slow down and put life into perspective. Heartsongs sits on an end table at home for the purpose of starting a conversation which leads to inspiration.

Both take enormous patience and extra time to get their points across to the listener. Are you “listening” to the children in your life? As Mattie illustrates here, they have much to say to us and to the world as they grow.IMG_8238

As you and I slow down,

whose heartsong

might we hear?

As we stay too busy with

our days,

our smart phones,

our schedules,

our lives,

whose heartsong might we miss?

I hope at some point, you will take 10 minutes to click here to watch a video about this extraordinary young man.

It is a “must-see”, if you are at all interested in having a clearer understanding of what a heartsong really is. P.S. be sure to have some tissues nearby.

Click here to listen to one of my favorite Casting Crown songs:

LET MY LIFESONG SING TO YOU.

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“Remember to play after every storm.” Love, Mattie

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Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

IMG_7762IMG_7732Yesterday, Donny and I were so encouraged as we left Piedmont Church. For such a large sanctuary, it certainly is a warm and welcoming place to be and Sunday was no exception. The lights shone brightly, the trees and wreaths adorned the bannisters, the stage. But the thing that encouraged us the most was when our Pastor, Ike Reighard, who started a new series today entitled PRICELESS, reminded us that our great big God has a forgetful nature. YOU can view this series of messages on lifestream at our Piedmont Church website. God doesn’t just forgive, he forgets our wrong choices. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 NLT Three of the greatest gifts we as believers find in him are:

LOVE

PRAYER

FORGIVENESS

With the Christmas Season upon us, join me as I reflect on how fortunate we are that we serve a forgiving God. We ALL fall short. That’s the reason God sent his only son to the earth as a baby. Click here to gain greater understanding of the true story of Christmas. There are so many misunderstandings about this story. Many have doubted the truth of it for centuries, including C.S.Lewis and Lee Strobel, both of whom wrote books about their doubts regarding this intriguing story. “The son of God knew what it was to be a homeless person. What it was to start life without a roof over his head.” Pope Francis, Washington, D.C. October 2015

It’s Christmas and there are so many ways to identify with the Christ Child and his parents, too. As Pope Francis was here on his recent trip to D.C.,  he visited a homeless shelter and he reminded his audience that Jesus was “homeless” as a newborn. Jesus’ mother gives all mothers the greatest example of humility and trust in Luke 2:51b, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Joseph, a carpenter, was a faithful and honorable man.

Do you want to know more about the newborn Christ Child this Christmas? “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God.” Corrie ten Boom If so, reach out to friends and family who have come to know him and allow space in your heart to learn more for yourself. Let every heart prepare him room. Read the Gospel of Luke, Chapter Two,  More Than A Carpenter, By, Josh McDowell or Mere Christianity, By, C.S. Lewis.  Read and consider the lyrics of some of the carols of old, like Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Joy To The World. Yes, there are many doubts about the truth of this age-old story. The horrific events in Colorado Springs, Co this past weekend may only add to those doubts as the abortion debate gains more and more momentum. However, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  We also read in James 4:8, Come near to God and he will come near to you. (that’s just one of the over 7,000 promises in the Bible) [pullquote]Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” C.S. Lewis[/pullquote] Faith is like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger our faith will become. No, we cannot see God, in his flesh and blood, but as we admit our need for him, believe in him with all of our heart, and acknowledge our faults to him, our lives are forever changed and then we see him EVERYWHERE we look.

We may not know the future,

but perhaps Christmas 2015 will be a season for

drawing closer to the ONE who does. 

And speaking of not knowing the future, as a UGa 1980 Graduate, I would love for you to check out this great blog post entitled “Farewell Coach”.

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from Forgotten Forever, by Max Lucado, the passage that Pastor Ike read to us yesterday morning.”

I was thanking the Father today for his mercy. I began listing the sins he’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word remember that it hit me.
“remember the time I…” I was about to thank God for another act of mercy. But I stopped. Something was wrong. The word remember seemed displaced. It was an off-key note in a sonata, a misspelled word in a poem. It didn’t fit. “Does he remember?”

Then I remembered. I remembered his words. “And I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12 Max Lucado

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Anne Lamott Best Day Ever

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Author, Anne Lamott has written several best sellers,  Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace,  Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith, to name a few. Lamott has written  so many words that have resonated with my heart, that I decided to share a recent message from her to you and to me:

“My six-year-old associate, who sleeps down the hall about thirty feet away with both our doors wide open, wakes up on many mornings and predicts,

“This might be the best day ever!”

Then, in the dead of night, a tiny voice calls out to me, “Nana, will you ever get sick or die?”

Then he cries at the very thought. He terrorizes himself.

I think this says it all.

If you are alive, conscious, and sensitive, which is to say, human, you’re going to have incredible joy and terror this side of eternity. It’s Life 101, life on life’s terms, not on ours, all these things–fear, joy, grace, mess, isolation, communion–all mixed up together.

I hate this more than I can say. I don’t like everything to touch.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”  C.S. Lewis

 Also, I don’t love that at sixty-one, your skin can still break out, even as the wattles hang lower, like roman shades, and you might still get audited, or shingles. Not to mention that every so often, out of the blue, a sniper sneaks up from behind a tree and picks off someone without whom you can’t–or at least don’t want–to go on.

Or that other people, like obviously Jimmy Carter, handle fearful news with faith and elegance, while you KNOW that you will be more like a cross between Kylie Jenner and Ed Grimley.

IMG_6672While we are at it, I am a tiny bit tired of having issues around food and my body. I would like–and expected–to be all well by this age, which is to say, I’d mostly want healthy food. Really?

Also, I do not love that when you get older, your feet hurt fairly often because you walk a lot BECAUSE EVERYONE FUGGING TOLD YOU YOU HAD TO IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A GOOD OLD AGE. P.S. For the record, I refuse to eat kale. PPS. I have lost all confidence in lettuce. It is basically green crunchy air.

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But back to my associate.

It is not helpful to tell each other cute things we saw on bumper stickers, whether our beloved people are six or sixty. It is condescending, and patronizing, and it make us turn on you. And yet! Two very short sentences do help, have saved me more often that I can recount:

The most important is “Me too.” Yes, joyous and scared, chosen and lonely, healing and cuckoo, all at once. Yep. Me too.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You, too? I thought I was the only one…'” C.S. Lewis

IMG_6667The second is, “Courage is fear that has said it prayers.” Courage when your kids leave, or you lose them, or evil pulls on them too hard; courage for the limbo of sick parents, and cold silences and dark nights. I think often of the weeks after the end of WWII, in the refugee camps for orphans and dislocated kids. Of course the children couldn’t sleep! But the grown-ups discovered that after you fed them, if you gave them each a piece of bread just to hold, they would drift off. It was holding bread. There was more to eat if they were still hungry. This was bread to hold, to remind them and connect them to the great truth–that morning would come, that there were grown-ups who cared and were watching over them, that there would be more food when they awoke.

Wow. I mean, HELLO, the fourth great prayer. Hello, are you really there? I am! I’m right here, and I’m semi-okay, and you are right here, too, or at least down the hall, with the door wide open.

We are holding each other’s bread.

Yesterday my pastor quoted Gandhi saying that there is so much hunger in the world that God comes to earth as bread.

We are so hungry! And we get to call out to each other in the dark, and the parents of our childhoods will not be pissed off that we have woken them.

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Ghandi

 Our closest people, our chosen families, now say we can call them if we need to, and they will say, “It’s fine that you called. Yes, me too! I know what that is like. I know exactly what that fear and isolated feel like. I’m listening, honey.”

When my darling grandboy cannot get himself back to sleep, I don’t tell him I promise never to get sick or die. I just go fish him out of the fear and the dark, and tuck him in next to me.

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Reach for me, bread of God.

And then when the light returns, who knows? This might be the best day ever.”

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Spiders, Oh My

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Charlotte’s Web, page 66

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

My friend, Rebecca along with our daughter, Leah could be considered arachnophobic. They both have a true fear of spiders. If they ever find themselves close to one, you can count on a very, loud, shrill scream, and this can come out of nowhere. So beware of that scream even more than the spiders. It’ll scare you half to death!!! This will soon be followed by a flip-flop smacking that is equally loud.

While I certainly don’t want to be bitten by one, spiders have never really bothered me too much. Guess I am lucky in that way. One of my all-time favorite books as a child and as an adult, and one I read to our children when they were young is Charlotte’s Web, By E. B. White written in 1952, and illustrated by Garth Williams. In the school year of 1998-1999, when I homeschooled Walker for first grade, we read aloud  a trio of White’s great stories, including this one, Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little. If you have little ones, school age,  older children, or grandchildren, I encourage you to schedule a time of reading each night. It is a super sweet time to snuggle as you read. If your child is a reader, you can read using the “popcorn method”: you read a page, then the child reads a page, taking turns. These can be the best 10-20 minutes in yours and your child’s day!

Maybe it’s the way Charlotte is known as a teacher, a mentor, that softens any negative opinion I might have about spiders in general. After all, Charlotte was born to be a teacher. Remember how Charlotte is always teaching Wilbur new words? She’s a genuine dictionary, that spider. Plus, this spider also has some huge life lessons in her spinnerets. She’ll help Wilbur feel at home in the barn and deal with some pretty big issues, like his own mortality. It’s a good thing this spider is quite the smarty-pants. If you, your children, or grandchildren have not read or heard this story recently, run, don’t walk to the nearest public library for some reading with loved ones. I promise, you will not be disappointed!

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Charlotte, the spider.Another ingenious spider, for sure! Charlotte’s Web, page 38
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Walker studies the spider.

Recently, a very active spider caught Walker’s, Scott’s, and my attention late one night. The spider was bound and determined to spin that web and to catch as many treats while doing it. As we observed the busy spider, we made a game of catching bugs and throwing them into the web, some of which were quickly and succinctly captured and wound up by this ingenious spider. This made me wonder about spiders…I know that may sound crazy, but it really made me wonder why they are here and what is their true purpose in being here.IMG_4695 IMG_4693

Did you know? Spiders are the ultimate exterminator. They are important in controlling the insect population, a natural form of insecticide. Some spiders consume an estimated 2,000 insects in one year! Did you know? Female spiders are fairly prolific at generating offspring, some creating several egg sacs with dozens of eggs in each. (Sorry to tell you this Leah and Rebecca!)Most web-building spiders favor this strategy, knowing that only a few of their offspring will survive to adulthood.  Female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs with them, attached to the spinnerets. Once the spiderlings hatch, mother wolf spider lets them ride on top of her abdomen until they have their first molt, at which point they disperse to fend for themselves. Did you know? A spider’s web begins with the spider’s ability to transform liquid silk inside its special glands into solid threads. The spider does this by physically pulling the spider silk through its spinnerets – silk-secreting organs on its abdomen. Once the thread is started, the spider lifts its spinnerets into the breeze. It’s the breeze that is the secret to the spider’s ability to spin a web from tree to another. Although the thread isn’t sticky or gluey, it can still stick to the tree. Most likely it just gets tangled on small protuberances. Or it adheres due to static electrical forces, like balloons sticking to a TV screen. At this point, the spider can use the thread to “tightrope walk” from one tree to another. Usually, the spider is hanging underneath the thread on its journey from tree to tree. Many spiders build new webs each night or day, depending on when they hunt.  The breeze is the key to a spider’s ability to spin a web between two trees.

I guess that will be enough facts to share about spiders. The bottom line is most people do not like them, no matter what. Still between real spiders and fictional Charlotte in this best-loved children’s story, it is good to ask questions and stay curious.

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One of my all-time favorite stories! Read it with someone you love.
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Charlotte’s Web, page 88
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Charlotte’s Web, page 95

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web

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Charlotte’s Web, page 78

What are you, your children, or your grandchildren curious about today?

Explore that subject, animal or topic by going to the public library or

nearby bookstore, or just go ahead and GOOGLE IT!

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Wilbur and Charlotte remind us: “Let’s stay curious!”

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