With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
I recently had the opportunity to have some solitude, a time completely alone, aside from our 11 year old yellow lab, Gracie Girl. This doesn’t happen that often, so I wanted to share a few things with you about my adventure with solitude. Just following my annual Girls Gather From All Around at the lake, I had a few hours to myself before Donny would rejoin me. I seized the moments and took an intentional time-out for me. I had been storing up files, clippings, quotes, thoughts from my siblings, all about my Mama—and I had been pondering a book project, entitled “12 Lessons My Mama Taught Me.”
Now, before you say “There’s no way I have time for that!” and just stop reading at this point, I do realize that it is rare for a person to have the luxury to unplug from it all for this long.
Solitude is definitely a gift that few people take full advantage of and I would like to offer some thoughts on how you and I can seize the moments for being alone, if only for a few minutes in a day, week, or month.
As a new Jojo to two pre-one-year-old Grands, my solitude time has become more important than before. I LOVE time with them and I LOVE my time of being alone and allowing my body to catch up with soul. Time to catch my breath, exercise, work on my writing, or just sit and do nothing.
spend time in nature, alone, enjoying the pleasure of your own company
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) lived alone in the woods for two years and two months in a small structure built with his own hands, for just under $29.00.
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
Henry David Thoreau
While I have not been able to get through his book, Walden, cover-to-cover, I have read enough bits and pieces to confirm the benefits of solitude, both long like Thoreau, or short-term like the seven suggestions above.
How will you and I find ways to carve solitude
into our lives in the days ahead?
Later, after my time of solitude, the song, The Prayer came on over my Sirius radio.
I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go, And help us to be wise, in times when we don’t know Let this be our prayer, as we go our way Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace To a place where we’ll be safe…lyrics from The Prayer
As I listened to the lyrics, I thought about how much better our world would be if we could just take a few minutes out and utter the lyrics of this song…
My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride. “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.
“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”
As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.
The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here.
February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.
The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom.
Author, Annie F. Downs
Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction. At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.
From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.
Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!) Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you. ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.
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.
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.
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.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
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.”
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.
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.
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)
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!
We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).
Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned. Like most women, our calendars are always full of engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.
If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar
We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together, bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.
At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.
As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.
Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.”
This past week, Donny and I took the most peaceful adventure, a tandem kayak, with Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking. We kayaked for 3 hours down the beautiful Toccoa River in North Georgia, and this song, the tune, the lyrics kept coming to my mind. I was reminded of a word my Daddy used all the time: equanimity, calm amidst a storm. I considered how important it is to have faith, in good times and in bad times.
Hope is like a yeast, you know, rising under warmth.
Leif Enger, author of the novel, Peace Like A River
These outfitters, located in Morganton, Georgia, were awesome and we highly recommend them. They offer fishing trips and many other adventures, in addition to kayaking. This is close enough to Atlanta, Georgia to make a day trip out of it. And with the summer season heating up, the ice cold waters of the Toccoa feel oh, so good, although we were thankful we didn’t flip our tandem kayak!
Contact them at 706-258-2411. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are a few more pictures from our adventure.
Wherever you find yourself this Summer 2016, be safe, have fun, keep the faith, and stay cool!
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul
It is well With my soul It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul