No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict Except Jesus

My friend, Nancy R. Chalmers has recently published her book entitled, “No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict.” This autobiographical story recounts the author’s experiences as she endured her son’s addiction, the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil the addiction was on her and the entire family. The center is filled with family pictures illustrating their journey. Readers are given a firsthand look at how drug addiction took over her son, Andrew’s life, straight from her heart. This personal story took a ton of courage, bravery, as well as a hefty dose of vulnerability. This story is not just for parents of addicts, but for families who find themselves in a hard season that seems impossible to change.

Andrew Chalmers

It is Nancy’s sincere hope and prayer that many families will begin to heal, not only from the tragedy of substance abuse, but from any number of difficult circumstances that happen around our globe on a regular basis. It is this author’s belief that the path to wholeness starts with brokenness, and that “healing” is our God’s specialty since we are His creation. I agree with her.

In this personal account, Nancy also reminds us how telling our story…to a trustworthy soul…can offer healing beyond measure. She is very thankful for the one friend who reached out on a regular basis to be “Jesus with skin on” for this hurting Mom.

It's amazing seeing the ripple effects of how when the hope of Jesus Christ invades the life of a person how that creates a domino effect to impact the rest of their family, their workplace, and their neighborhood. Andrew Chalmers, Director and Founder of Take The City, also son of Nancy and Louis Chalmers,

Thankfully, Andrew survived this devastating disease, and one day at a time, he is sharing his story through a ministry he started called Take The City. Andrew now has a heart for those who are lost and in the throes of this debilitating lifestyle of substance abuse. Andrew and his family are indebted to the program Teen Challenge which literally helped to save his life. A portion of the proceeds from Nancy’s book will provide scholarships to those needing to enter the recovery program of Teen Challenge.

Not everyone is going to exhibit the kind of faith The Chalmers have shown here in this story. But God can work with what faith you have. In fact, Matthew 17:20 tells us “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Church folks don't like to talk about unacceptable problems. Oh, we can go on and on about cancer, death, (as long as it's not suicide), divorce, loss of job, sudden illness, surgery, birth defects, all our 'small sins' and many more. But alcohol and substance abuse, family abuse, runaways, other addictions, mental illness, satanic activity, pornography and sexual perversions, rape, murder, and nervous breakdowns are taboo.' Nancy R. Chalmers, author of No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict

At the close of her story, Nancy offers a 15 page Reflections Study Guide for hurting families. She begins it by again, reminding us that healing begins when we share our stories in a safe, confidential space.

Nancy begins the Study Guide with some frank questions:

  • What is going on in your family?

  • Who are the players in your drama?

  • How is all this affecting you?

  • Describe your most recent challenge or storm and how you responded.

  • To whom do you share this problem, where do you go for good counsel?

  • How do you find comfort?

Please note below a schedule of Nancy Reardon Chalmers’ upcoming book signings:

Wildwood Baptist Church, Acworth, GA Sunday Morning, March 12, 2017, in the cafe area

Piedmont Church, Marietta, GA Sunday Morning, March 19, 2017 in the cafe area

Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, NC Wednesday, March 22, 2017 during the Wednesday Night Dinner

Click here to listen to an old hymn which came up often and ministered greatly to Nancy during this dark season of her life journey.

Andrew Chalmers, drug-free

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters: Share Your Struggles

Addiction is Real: Hope is Real, too

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

We Are Called To Be Brave

A Resource List:

The Addiction Recovery Guide

Teen Challenge, USA

The Extension: life-worth-recovery

Addiction Recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse

the fix: Addiction Recovery, Straight Up

Celebrate Recovery

AA

Davis Direction Foundation

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!”

A Win For The Guinn Family And Kate’s Club Just Look What Kids Can Do!

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WOW! $20,0002.69 = A Win for The Guinn Family and Kate’s Club! Just look at what kids can do! You may have read my recent post, Are You Driving?  Put The Phone Down, about Marietta triplets, MacKenna, Alyssa, and Issy, along with their mom, Kim, and the huge positive difference they are making in our world in the challenging and onerous aftermath of their Daddy, and Kim’s husband’s passing in 2014. You see, Frank, an Atlanta firefighter, was training for an upcoming race when he was struck and killed by a distracted driver.

Age seven at the time, at first, the triplets did not want to talk about their Daddy’s passing, it was just too hard! Thanks to an organization founded in June 2003, Kate’s Club has taught these sisters how to grieve in a healthy way, while moving forward. In addition, Kate’s Club, in Atlanta, Georgia, offers all of their resources free of charge, and they even hold monthly meetings for the grieving parents, which Kim Guinn has shared has been extremely helpful to her.

The soul is healed by being with children. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Once the sisters decided that they wanted to give back to Kate’s Club, a plan began to unfold and you can read about it in my earlier post here.

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I listened to The Bert Show live this morning, as they interviewed Mom, Kim, the triplets, as well as Kristen Stocks, founder of a life-changing organization from Kid’s Boost, and here is what I learned as a follow-up to this amazing story:

The Guinn Family contacted Kid’s Boost The Mission of Kid’s Boost is simple: To create a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others. Mrs. Stocks, the founder Of Kid’s Boost, believes that kids of all ages have the innate need and desire to do something great in the world. So, Kid’s Boost offered The Guinn Family $100.00 to begin their plan. Long story short, the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held this past Sunday on September 11, 2016, in Marietta, Georgia, raised $20,002.69…$15,002.69 more than their goal of $5,000!!!

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KIDS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! LET’S GIVE THEM THE CHANCE! Fun happenings at the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held on September 11, 2016, Marietta, Georgia

This all began with three grieving girls who had lost their Daddy because of a distracted driver, a motivated (and also grieving) Mommy, $100.00 and this family’s desire to make a difference while honoring their precious loved one. So I leave you now with a few thoughts:

  • Do you have kids or grandkids? Would you like to see them more confident? What is important to your child? THINK BIG! Contact Kid’s Boost and they will help you empower your kids to do great things to give back in fun ways.
  • Are you and I distracted drivers, one who is constantly handling our phones while behind the wheel? Read here about a tragic accident that happened just this week in Athens, Georgia, stealing a life away, a UGA Grad Researcher, Ashley Block, age 25, instantly. The driver, age 31 has been found to not only be looking at her cellphone, but also impaired.  As Kim Guinn states: “Pass them like you love them, because someone ‘does’ love them. Bikers, joggers, pedestrians have families just like you.”
  • Do you know someone who is struggling with the loss of a child or a parent? If so, encourage them to contact Kate’s Club. This $20,000+ raised by The Guinn triplets will fund camps, outings, parental resources, all kinds of great things, all in the name of helping families who are grieving the loss of a family precious member.

And finally, remember that TODAY is a gift, and that is why we call it “The Present”. Click here to read one of my favorite posts: The Simple Things.  Make Today A Great Day!

Posts You May Have Missed:

Children Are Wet Cement

Let’s Listen To Children

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With my Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes Of Golf And 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

A New Angel From Indiana My Memories As An Educator

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1980’s Avondale Elementary
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1980’s Avondale Elementary

There is a new angel from Indiana, and the sudden passing of Mrs. Susan Jordan got me thinking about my career as an educator.

Nearly three decades ago, after several years as a Classroom Teacher, I found myself in a Lead Teacher for Student Services (LTSS) position at Avondale Elementary, in DeKalb County.

I want to leave a legacy. How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Nichole Nordeman's song, Legacy

 As a LTSS, one of my main responsibilities was to be a liaison between the home and the school. Many of our students did not have home phones or cars, so connecting with the parents proved to be very difficult. The “teacher’s note” did not always arrive into the hands of the Mom of the home. Emails and texts were nonexistent. I loved this job and one of my favorite parts of it was to be on bus duty every morning and every afternoon, without fail.

When our friends, Ed and Cathy announced in our small group at church recently that a former principal of their daughter’s, Mrs. Susan Jordan was killed in a freak accident related to bus duty, my heart went straight back to those years of greeting and giving farewells to our students day in and day out.

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Susan Jordan will be greatly missed!

On January 26, 2016, Jordan died instantly while pushing school children out of harm’s way when a bus jumped the curb in front of the school. The principal at Amy Beverland Elementary School, for nearly two decades, Jordan was beloved by all, students, parents, and staff, alike. Susan Jordan, age 69, has left a legacy that will be emulated and remembered for generations to come. This is such a devastating story, a tremendous loss, for sure. It is also a good reminder that this life is no dress rehearsal, and we only get one chance to leave the kind of legacy we would like to leave.

What Kind Of Legacy will you and I leave behind when it is our time to pass on?

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

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What feeds you and me? Let’s follow our heartsong.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of evil, a ton of loss, in our world today, what with the continued, enormous conflict in the Middle East, not to mention the very recent terror attacks in both Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, only 19 days and 5,000 miles apart from each other.

Terrorists feed on fear.

It seems their greatest delight must lie in horrifying others. Their goal-fear, our reaction-fear… is a normal response to the circumstances in our world today.

Call it naivety…

…but what if we decided to “fight back”, not with weapons, but with hope paired with our fear?[pullquote]For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7[/pullquote]

There was a brave, young soul, named Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, who lived between the years of 1991-2004. [pullquote]A heart song is something deep inside each of us. It’s our sense of why we are here and how we can keep going. It is like a purpose. It may be to live as a mommy or a daddy, or a firefighter or a delivery person, or a child with a disability who teaches others about patience and love and acceptance. Heartsongs are usually easy to hear when we are young, but we sometimes get too busy or hurt or angry to listen to them as we get older. And just like any gift that isn’t cared for or used well, it is possible to forget how to listen to the message of each song. But even if we completely lose our heart song, we can share someone else’s song until we are able to reawaken or recreate our own.” Mattie Stepanek, in the Introduction to his 2002 Best Seller, Hope Through Heartsongs [/pullquote]

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Mattie’s Poem penned in 1999, just five years before he passed at the age of 13

Despite a rare, debilitative disease (dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy) Mattie managed to publish five poetry books before his passing at the age of 13.[pullquote]We are each Angels-in-the-making, and that is why we can see and honor in others, such as Mattie, the goal that each of us is traveling toward. Mattie reminds us of that goal and makes us thankful.” Gary Zukav in the Foreword to Mattie’s 2001 Best Seller Hope Through Heartsongs[/pullquote] Mattie began writing poetry at the age of three to cope with the death of his brother of this same genetic disease. Did you know? Mattie’s fans included Jimmy Carter and Oprah Winfrey. He was well-known for his promotion of peace. As I consider Mattie’s heart and work, I am inspired to “fight back” with goodness. But how does one do that? In Mattie’s poem entitled “Bravery Prayer”, he suggests we pair hope and fear together in one great force, leading to Bravery!

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Mattie’s thoughts remind me of another great example for making the discovery of what feeds us:

The Tale Of Two Wolves

ONE EVENING, AN ELDERLY
CHEROKEE BRAVE TOLD HIS
GRANDSON ABOUT A BATTLE THAT
GOES ON INSIDE PEOPLE.

HE SAID “MY SON, THE BATTLE IS
BETWEEN TWO ‘WOLVES’ INSIDE US ALL.
ONE IS EVIL. IT IS ANGER,
ENVY, JEALOUSY, SORROW,
REGRET, GREED, ARROGANCE,
SELF-PITY, GUILT, RESENTMENT,
INFERIORITY, LIES, FALSE PRIDE,
SUPERIORITY, AND EGO.

THE OTHER IS GOOD.
IT IS JOY, PEACE LOVE, HOPE, SERENITY,
HUMILITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE,
EMPATHY, GENEROSITY,
TRUTH, COMPASSION AND FAITH.”

THE GRANDSON THOUGHT ABOUT
IT FOR A MINUTE AND THEN ASKED
HIS GRANDFATHER:

“WHICH WOLF WINS?…”

THE OLD CHEROKEE SIMPLY REPLIED,
“THE ONE THAT YOU FEED”

So with that old story, along with the courageous, short life of Mattie Stepanek, I ask us again…What feeds you and me? Whether we fear tornadoes, death, terrorists, or tax collectors, let’s follow our heart song. Let’s start within our own families, in our homes, today.

Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me

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The Hospitality Of Gander, Newfoundland After 9/11

IMG_1903As we see another of anniversary 9/11 come to a close, recalling all the incredibly sad details of it, my friend, Echo, shared a story on her Facebook page that is sure to life your spirits. I have never heard it before. Maybe it will be new to you, as well. Please enjoy this inspiring story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11, and if at all possible, read to the very end for an extraordinary finish :

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland. He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller  and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings. We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.
We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the
world that had taken this detour on their way to the US. After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.” Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets. Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.
We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane. Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.And they were true to their word.

Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel.

We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time. Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.
What we found out was incredible…..
Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.
Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.
ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.”

Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.

Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.

During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.

In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.
Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.
It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.

Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.

He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.
He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.

He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

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Pretty cool story, huh.

It reminds us of how many helpful and kind people

there are in the world. Sadly, often, the ones who aren’t

helpful just get a lot more press.

The “Plane People” even returned to thank Gander one decade after their gift of kindness and hospitality was displayed for the entire world to see. Click Here to read about that poignant reunion on September 11, 2011.

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Humble And Kind

Man’s Best Friend

Memorial Day And Veteran’s Day: Know The Difference

Never Forget September 11, 2001

IMG_566911th Memorial of 9/11, at Kennesaw Mountain National Park, with my friend, Nancy’s foster golden retriever at the time:

Amidst the solemn memorial of one flag for every life lost, he reminded me that there is still good in this world if we would each do our part, the world could be a better place. my friend, Nancy Bray

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It is that time again when we stop to remember the

unimaginable tragedy that was 9/11, September 11, 2001.

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We must never forget!

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The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers. The 2,977 victims included 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.  Nearly all of those who perished were civilians with the exceptions of 72 law enforcement officers, 343 firefighters, and 55 military personnel who died in the attacks. After New York, New Jersey lost the most state citizens, with the city of Hoboken having the most citizens that died in the attacks.

If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate. Sandy Dahl, wife of pilot Flight 93, Jason Dahl

 More than 90 countries lost citizens in the September 11 attacks. The attacks of September 11, 2001, marked it the worst terrorist attack in world history and the deadliest foreign act of destruction to life and property on American soil since the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. from Wikipedia

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Even after a tragedy of this enormous magnitude, life carries on, somehow. Two of my sisters, along with many friends, and our son-in-law celebrate their birthdays during the month of September. One of my dearest friends from my college days, Susan, celebrates her day of birth on September 11th. I cannot help but take pause and consider all the birthdays, the many other special celebrations that have been missed in the past fourteen years because these hateful, hate-filled people made the choice on that Tuesday morning to end their own lives while taking the lives of thousands. This brings to mind my big brother, John Wade, a Marine who served in Vietnam, making it out alive, now Dad to three and GrandDad to three more. It reminds me of my childhood friend, Betty Lou’s brother, Mike who died in Vietnam at the young age of 18. Freedom Is Not Free.

9/11

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Our friend, JoAnn writes on the wall in the makeshift memorial fourteen months following 9/11.
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New York City, fourteen months after 9/11 on December 7, 2002.
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A notation I made in my Bible on December 7, 2002.

While I have not had the chance to visit the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, I did have the chance to visit NYC, December 5-8, 2002 just 14 months after this horrific event with my girlfriends from Tennessee Tech University. IMG_5607

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Did you know? Over time, verse 91:1 has become known as “the 911 verse”.

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Ground Zero on 12/7/02As we meandered along the perimeter of the two massive, gaping holes in the ground, which the twin towers had left, we spoke not a word. There were no words. It was a frigid, wintry day, still we moved very slowly, sign-to-sign, picture-to-picture of those loved ones lost. We’re living in a fearful time. Since 9/11, people have become more afraid than ever before, because of terrorism. There’s a lot of confusion about evil, where it’s all coming from.” Charles Stanley A couple of us went into a store to buy warmer socks. We stayed there a long time, freezing tears making their way down our cheeks. A man was reading Psalm Chapter 91 aloud and we stopped to listen.
We're living in a fearful time. Since 9/11, people have become more afraid than ever before, because of terrorism. There's a lot of confusion about evil, where it's all coming from. Charles Stanley

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How will we consider the depths of loss that occurred on 9/11/01?

How will we look inside ourselves making an intentional choice to live in a kind and compassionate way towards the humans in our path?

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Glover Park, in our hometown of Marietta, Georgia

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Humble And Kind

Man’s Best Friend

Memorial Day And Veteran’s Day: Know The Difference

The Hospitality Of Newfoundland After 9/11

Who’s In Our Path? Let's Take Time To Notice

By now, everyone has heard the horrific, the amazing story of what happened on a Paris-bound train on Friday, this past week. An off-duty, U.S. Airman, Spencer Stone overpowered a gunman with the help of three other men: Alex Skarlatos, a member of the U.S. National Guard, Anthony Sadler, a U.S. student, and Briton, Chris Norman. What led them to react so quickly? Stone’s answer came in one word: SURVIVAL.

But what if these gentleman were caught up in “tunnel vision” on that Friday, August 21, 2015? What if their complete focus was on themselves—their phones, their earbuds with music, their calendars, their agenda for that day? The outcome on that fast-moving train could’ve been very different, with the potential of many lives lost, if these four had been too busy to notice who was in their path.

My personal story here today is not nearly as dramatic as the one above, but in some ways, I believe it is just as important. It’s not about watching for “evil” folks in our path, but rather being on the look-out for small ways in which we can have a big impact in the lives of others in our own sphere of influence.

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This past Tuesday, I arrived early for my Bikram Hot Yoga class. As I entered the locker room, I noticed three ladies talking quietly and intently as one of them was weeping. Trying not to be intrusive, I did overhear them say that the woman who was crying had just lost a daughter. As the other two slipped out, I introduced myself to the one who was grieving and asked her if I could give her a big hug. She readily agreed. We chatted a few more minutes before class as she shared with me about her much loved daughter and how much she missed her, with her having only passed so recently on July 30, 2015. As she wept some more, I told her that one reason her grief was so big was because she had loved well. She seemed to really “hear” what I was saying. I also shared with her that though I, myself had not lost a child, my sister had in 2009 (see Celebrate Me Home post),  and dear friends lost their son in March earlier this year. (see Where Is He? or Joy Comes In The Morning posts) Even though it was impossible to change this new friend’s circumstances, I could join her in her grief, in hopes this would help her to feel less alone.

Earlier in the morning, before I left for Bikram, I took a few minutes to read through a devotion entitled Keeping Life In Focus.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13 NLT

 In a brief nutshell, the reading emphasized four things that will come about as we keep our lives in focus: our priorities will fall into order, we will develop a forward mind-set, focus will set us on the second mile, and it will enable us to know where we are going. This devo is in the book my Tennessee Tech girlfriends and I are reading together this year, starting on page 156: The Joshua Code, By, O.S. Hawkins. I am writing about this devotion because one of my frequent prayers is:

“Dear Precious and Heavenly Father,
please order my day,
help me to be a blessing in someone’s path.”
Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. James M. Barrie

I have a friend named David (DRB) who is forever looking for ways to brighten someone’s day. When you see David, you can fully expect to receive a super friendly greeting from him, a big smile paired with a hug. He has clearly made it a priority to bring joy to the lives of others, to those he finds in his daily path.

Did you know that we can even smile with our eyes and with our heart?

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Just taking time to notice those in our paths could make a world of difference in one’s day, or possibly in a life. This reminds me of a story that is suitable for retelling/adapting for any age child. I read this story about Kyle many years ago, perhaps you’ve heard it, too:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the smiles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class.

I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle.

He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous.

Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach … but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.

I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions.  (copied)”

With one small gesture, perhaps even with a smile, you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

Let’s take time to notice who is in our path.

18 Holes of Golf & 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It!

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It has changed my life. I now have a new normal life. Never take a minute with your children for granted. I was texting and laughing with Matt one minute and 13 minutes later, he was gone. Cathy, Matt Dyas' Mom

This past Monday, June 8, 2015 was truly an extraordinary day. A day where over 110 golfers played 18 holes of golf in memory of a remarkable young man and more than a dozen women made 1,000 sandwiches for the low-income families in our community. This day was special in so many ways, including the truth that when a plan is laid out, a huge difference can be made in our sphere of influence in just a few short hours!

October 1, 2011 started out like any other day. A fall, football Saturday, certainly a favorite day for many folks. In Carrollton, Georgia on the beautiful campus of The University of West Georgia, students, faculty, and fans were busy with festivities surrounding Homecoming Saturday. In a matter of seconds, everything changed for the family of 20-year-old college student, Matt Dyas, when a car struck his motorcycle killing him instantly. Matt’s Mom, Cathy was hours away, when she received news of the accident, having just arrived at a destination for some time with girlfriends. Matt, a 2009 graduate from nearby Harrison High School  was known for many things , some of which are his exceptional golf score as a member of the West Georgia team, his role as a younger brother to Quinn and a big bro to Mary Cat,  son to David, a friend to countless, and a grandson, cousin, nephew to many.  Most of all, Matt Dyas was known for his strong faith and his giving spirit. “Just Do It” was his mantra. Matt was also known for his interest in mission trips, venturing to both Russia and Ukraine before his passing. I would never attempt to tell my friend, Cathy: “I know how you feel.” As I have learned more about the potential stages of grief, I have also realized that everyone grieves in their own personal way. In most cases, I do believe the “shock stage” comes first to protect us from the overwhelming truth of the tragedy that has occurred. The anesthetic shock can last a few hours, or even a few days. I am certain this was the case with Matt’s family when they heard the news just minutes after he had been in touch with them through texts and phone calls. (Since posting this in 2015, I have written three posts which might prove helpful for those who are grieving: 4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved , A Grace Disguised, and How The Soul Grows Through Loss. 5/4/16)

Over 1,000 friends and family members gathered on Monday, October 7, 2011 in memory of Matt Dyas. Quinn, Mary Catherine and many other friends wore red t-shirts with large white letters stating Matt’s birthday and his mantra: Just Do It! IMG_3636 IMG_3637Matt’s mother, Cathy, called “Ma”  by Matt since he was a boy, bravely shared a poem called The Dash with the congregation. It was a beautiful day of celebration even amidst the devastating loss that comes with losing your son.

A few months after Matt’s unexpected passing, his family began to talk about something they could do in Matt’s memory. They soon decided on a golf tournament and determined the first one would be held right around Matt’s 21st birthday, June 2, 2012.  I am unsure as to what my response would be in these same circumstances. What I do know is how this family has chosen to respond to their grief is one I can only pray I would emulate in similar circumstances.

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L to R, Matt’s sis, Mary Catherine, his big brother, Quinn, and his Ma, Cathy on June 8, 2015 Brookstone Country Club at the Matt Dyas Golf Tournament
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Matt Dyas Golf Tournament Warm-up on June 8, 2015.
It has changed my life. I now have a new normal life. Never take a minute with your children for granted. I was texting and laughing with Matt one minute and 13 minutes later, he was gone. William Shakespeare

Soon after saying good-bye to her middle child, Cathy began to consistently put up positive, challenging posts on her Facebook page: “Make a difference like Matt did! What can you do to help someone out today?” or “What random act of kindness can you show someone today? Make a difference like Matt did!” Between the inspiring celebration of life service paired with these posts from Cathy, many lives have been changed for the better since Matt Dyas took his leave so unexpectedly in October 2011.

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Matt’s Aunt Heather (L) and Matt’s girlfriend, Haley handle the check-in table at the tournament.

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Matt’s Ma, Cathy makes a sandwich for a less fortunate child in our community.
People are made of stories, not atoms. Korean Proverb

I was honored to be a part of the fourth annual Matt Dyas Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament this past Monday, June 8, 2015. This Scholarship Fund in memory of Matt has raised thousands of dollars impacting more young people with each passing year. Seven Harrison High School seniors have earned scholarships in Matt’s name along with 2 University of West Georgia students. This fund has also sent five students on international mission trips. In addition, the Matt Dyas Memorial Scholarship Fund has helped Amateur Golfers, James White and Ollie Schniederjans, both graduates of Harrison High School , get their start with a golf career following their completion of a  degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. It is easy to see the positive, enormous ripple effect that has formed following the death of an amazing young man, Matthew Benjamin Dyas. This year’s tournament was the best yet as Cathy added the challenge of making 1,000 sandwiches for the Must Ministries Summer Lunch Program.

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Making sandwiches! Matt’s Grandmother (R , striped shirt) joined in on our project and ten-year old Ben (center) came along with his Mom, Jennifer, to help us while his big brother Josh played in the golf tournament.
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L to R, friends from the Charlotte, NC area join us for this special day, Lori and Sandra with Matt’s Ma, Cathy, and Jennifer standing in front of our 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Thanks to Kim and her daughter, Mallori, who combined the peanut butter and jelly to make our job easier!
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Packing lunch boxes for the golfers. Chic fil A donated sandwiches!
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Rance, a young man who only met Matt Dyas one time at a UGa frat party shared at the closing of the golf tournament. This is part of what Rance told the crowd: “Though Matt and I only met once, it was like we had known each other forever, we had so much in common, and meeting Matt was unforgettable for me. I try to SHINE MY LIGHT every day like Matt did and I hope you all will do the same!”
The deeper the sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Khalil Gibran
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Cathy and me during tournament warm-up.

How will you and I make a difference in someone’s day like Matt did?

We Are Called To Be Brave And Here's An Example Of Bravery

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This quote reminds me of Aimee Copeland who was quoted as saying: “This has made me grateful for what I do still have. I’m newly thankful for things like my elbows and my right knee.”
Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life. Joni Eareckson Tada

Back in late February, 2015, I attended a two-day workshop with two girlfriends. The title of our workshop was The Daring Way: SHOW UP*BE SEEN*LIVE BRAVE, based on extensive research carried out by Brene Brown, PhD., LMSW. Brown is the author of Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought It Was Just Me. My friends and I gained much from this workshop, and even as a fifty-something year old woman, I am practicing bravery with each passing day.

LIFE calls for BRAVERY. Just listen to NPR on your way home from work, or take in a bit of nightly news. It doesn’t take long to hear ISIS horror stories and other current event stories which call for boldness and valor.

Even better, listen out with great awareness to what is going on in your own world, looking for those who are showing bravery in your own sphere of influence: The men and women who volunteer with fortitude in our military so that we can enjoy freedom in our days. The families of these veterans who sacrifice and show bravery as they live out their days with their loved one away. A young adult college student who struggles with her eating disorder every single day. A mother to six and “GoodMama” to more than one dozen grandchildren is diagnosed with esophageal cancer and passes within four short months. A son, early 20s, dies tragically on his motorcycle at an intersection near his college stadium on Homecoming Day.

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Christopher Reeve

A Surgeon father of 3 dies at age 40 leaving behind a loving wife and three children, fourth grade and younger. A Mama, a dear girlfriend of mine, drowns right outside the family lake house—the two kids about to start 6th and 8th grades. A Dad is jogging and is struck and killed by an early morning commuter. Our nephew, Brad, age 24 takes a fall on a Wednesday in June, suffering a TBI, and lives ten months without knowing anyone, before passing just after his 25th birthday. A young man whom we’ve known and loved since his birth, age 23, has a psychotic spiral downward, and no matter how diligent his parents are to get him help, he ends up taking his life. A Daddy to two young adult sons, an Oncologist himself, loses his cancer battle, leaving his precious wife and boys behind to be brave.

 I am sure you can think of many personal stories which you have been a part of, as I have been a part of each one I have shared here.

Transform Fear Into Action Concept

ALL of my stories and the many that have come to your mind have something in common: They all call for us as humans to be brave.

The older I get, the more I realize that life as we know it can change on a dime. When that unexpected, often shocking change shows up, we are called for bravery beyond what we might believe we can offer to the circumstances before us.

I have learned that it is a process—being brave—it may not just happen, but that doesn’t mean that bravery won’t evolve as the days go by.

Many of you may remember the story of Aimee Copeland, the athletic graduate student who was injured on a homemade zip line back in May of 2012. I suspect that Tuesday, May 1, 2012 was a day much like yesterday in Georgia. Full sun. Birds singing. High between 75-80 degrees. Aimee and some of her classmates were ready for a reward, some fun in the sun. Aimee had just completed her last final for her last class of the semester, studying at West Georgia as a graduate student. What began as a beautiful time in nature with friends turned tragic when Aimee encountered an equipment malfunction on her second pass on the line. Her fall set the stage for the development of necrotizing fasciitis which led to amputations and the failure of her five major organs. Instead of saying, “Why me?”, Aimee recognized that it could have been any one of her group of friends, but she was the injured one. Aimee also stated, “You can’t live your life being paranoid, or in a bubble. The truth is, things like this happen when you least expect it.” I assure you that the remainder of this post won’t be a downer. Instead I would like to share with you the many ways Aimee’s life journey has exhibited bravery and stick-to-itiveness, again and again.

LIFE calls for BRAVERY. It truly does.

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The joy is evident in Aimee Copeland’s face in this recent photograph by EMORY Magazine Photographer, Jack Kearse
Joy is a deeply felt contentment that transcends difficult circumstances and derives maximum enjoyment from every good experience. Charles R. Swindoll

I recently picked up a copy of the Spring 2015 issue of EMORY Medicine and read an article by Mary Loftus (page 26) about this courageous young woman. This update illustrates how one woman is responding with tremendous bravery, grit, and determination to her life circumstances. I believe there is a great deal we can learn about courage from Aimee Copeland.

The question Why? on a cork notice board

Aimee practices dipping a chip in her guacamole, sharing that eating with others is one of her greatest challenges. Photograph by Jack Kearse
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One of Aimee’s main goals is to use her chair less and less. She works hard in her rehab time to achieve that goal. Photograph By Jack Kearse
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Photograph by Jack Kearse
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Photograph By Jack Kearse
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Photograph By Jack Kearse

First, Aimee’s Timeline in brief:

5/1/12 Tuesday, zip line accident******Tuesday-Thursday, multiple visits to hospital and doctors.

5/4/12 Friday, necrotizing fascists takes over leg, leg is amputated, Aimee goes into cardiac arrest, transfers hospitals on life support, in and out of consciousness, blood vessels in hands and remaining foot die, more amputations are necessary with hope that the palms of her hands will survive.

5/11/12 Friday, regains enough consciousness to mouth the question “Where am I?”

5/17/12 Thursday, with more amputations needed, Aimee’s father told her this was necessary in order to save her life, and when he had her look at damaged hands, she nodded, and then bravely said, “Let’s do this.”

5/20/12 Aimee is removed from life support, breathing on her own.

In nearly three short years, Aimee Copeland has come such a long, long way. Aimee lives in an apartment adjoining her parents’ home, drives her retrofitted van, and uses her iPad to help her keep up with her friends, continue her grad school research, and get to her regularly scheduled rehab appointments. Being outdoors and adventurous has always been of utmost importance to Aimee and she finds ways to continue on that path. Being Brave has taken Aimee quite far since that unforgettable day when she first gashed her leg on May 1, 2012. Since then, she has been using her voice for many worthy causes including Human Sex Trafficking, teaching young girls they are more than just their body/appearance, speaking often to student groups as a motivational speaker. Copeland is studying eco-psychology and wilderness therapy, with the intent of bridging the gap between nature and accessibility. After graduating in 2016, her plans are to become a licensed clinical social worker and start her own private practice. And Aimee has an even greater vision, too! Aimee dreams of one day obtaining an enormous piece of natural land and building a sustainable, off-the-grid community open to people of all ages and abilities, including wide trails, adaptive yoga, outdoor sports, raised campsites, and a big staff of nurses, therapists, instructors who could help meet the needs of all who need assistance. Her dream is to live there, too. Aimee’s life has taught me so much about stepping up and choosing to be brave. It is my hope that you, too, have gained some inspiration from this update on her life journey.

In light of yesterday’s horrific news in Georgia, where a multi-vehicle accident has taken the lives of five promising Georgia Southern University Nursing students, these loved ones who are left are being called to be brave beyond our comprehension. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out on behalf of all the people who are suffering, who’ve been left in the wake of this tragic accident.

How are you and I preparing our hearts for bravery?
How can we encourage those in our path who are
going through a season when they are
being called to respond with courage?