Do you have a lot of stress in your life these days. With all of the news of the weather, the tumultuous political climate, and the fast pace at which we live, it would be no surprise to anyone that our stress levels are at an all-time high.
'We're all broken. That's how the light gets in.'
Today, I will share with you six ways we can begin to relieve our stress starting today.
S-Seize the moment, pause and be IN the moment. Realize that this few minutes may be all we have. Breathe deeply connecting with your heart.
T-Take a minute to meditate and pray…whatever that means for you. Express gratitude. As a Christ-follower, I have learned that He meets me right where I am whenever I reach out to Him. I’m so thankful for this truth.
R-Rest enough. I know this is easier said than done. Especially for parents of young ones and those who are working long hours, but insufficient sleep puts us on edge. Try setting the timer on your phone and stretch out for a 15-25 minute power nap. At night, keep your screens away from your bedside table. It is particularly important to do this before sleep as it can cut down many of the problems related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
E-Be sure to get some exercise, even if it is a simple walk around your workplace parking lot during your lunch break. Move. Stretch. Stretch. Move. Exercise will pump up your endorphins, improving your mood.
S-Shed Stuff. Keep a “give away” box handy and put things in there on a regular basis. Most will agree that we just have too much stuff! Let’s give things away that are still useful and unclutter our lives some to help us relieve stress.
S-Screen Time Reduced. Most of us, if we were completely honest, spend way too much time looking at screens during our waking hours. The preoccupation with our devices, even during free time can often mess up other schedules causing delays in routine work, creating unwanted stress.
Regulating screen time can help individuals block out at least some of the channels through which stress is stimulated.
Which of these six ideas will you incorporate into your life in the days ahead?
We experienced an unbroken circle of life and love this past weekend as we once again gathered to celebrate a life well lived. The 5th annual Rails To River is held every October to celebrate the life of Taylor Read, who left us too soon in March of 2015.
A unique shelter, designed by Taylor’s sister, Megan was dedicated during the first ride in 2015. Following an 8-mile ride on this scenic trail, Taylor’s shelter is the destination for a picnic, Bluegrass music, and fellowship with friends and family. The day could not have been more perfect. The late summer heat had finally lessened, the rain stayed away, blue skies were wide open, and fall was truly in the air on the Virginia Creeper Trail.
'Dear God, Thank you for Everything we have, and we hope everybody's okay.'
Wayne Miller, the past president of the Virginia Creeper Trail shared a few words: “We can all experience Heaven while on this beautiful trail that Taylor loved so much. Taylor’s Spirit has been felt all day on the ride and now at his shelter. Let’s all enjoy this very special day.”
Yes, Taylor was with us, with many of his friends from both high school and college, many now married and a few are new parents. Taylor was with us, with his cousins, his Aunt Allison and Uncle Brian from GA, his grandparents from VA, TN, and GA. Taylor was with the dozens of The Read’s friends who watched him grow from a baby into a handsome young man. A guy who loved his family so much. Taylor loved people, golf, baseball, and God. A student who worked hard in school and loved hanging out with his friends. Taylor was with us as we remembered the day we received the unexpected news of his passing, but more than that, we recalled the days that he lived, laughed, and loved.
'We're not going to build just a little lean-to for our Taylor.'
As I looked around the shelter area and under the big, white picnic tent, I was moved by the wide variety of ages present on Saturday. Babies, babies, and lots of children, too, were all around for Taylor’s celebration. There were no less than four “pull-alongs” for those littles who are not quite old enough to bike the trail.
This circle of Life and Love is growing and Taylor Heston Read’s Legacy is expanding, too!
Extra special for our family was having our first grandchild, Michael Scott Andrews, III, “Tripp”, riding in one of those pull-alongs, towed by his strong Dad, Scott. Having Leah, Scott, and Tripp experience this meaningful weekend with us for their first time was just so awesome!
And our friend, Kathy Owen joined us from Pensacola, Florida for her first Taylor’s Ride. I bet it won’t be their last. We loved having my college friend, Delores and her Mama, Pat join us all in our Air BNB in Abingdon!
So, the next time Summer is drawing to an end, we’ll be making our plans to make the annual trip to SW Virginia, an area that has become dear to our hearts, just like Taylor Heston Read has.
Previous Posts about this inspiring family, The Reads, that you may have missed:
As we celebrate our first born’s 31st birthday today, I am sharing this unforgettable story of how Leah came to be. Since this story played out in 1987-1988, my God has given me many reasons to be a person of hope and gratitude.
Many may wonder how it feels to be a mother of a 31-year-old daughter, a 27-year-old son, as well as a new grandmother to two one-year-olds.
My main thought is one of pure joy and gratefulness that we are all still here to celebrate this day! We’ve all heard it said that “gratitude is a game changer in one’s attitude and approach to everyday living”, and I believe this with all of my heart!
Cheers To Leah Page Andrews Today!
Wishing you many, many more birthdays in the years ahead!
As a teacher at Avondale Elementary and a few years of suffering with unexplained infertility, I was near my wit’s end. We had planned everything out perfectly hadn’t we? With my husband still in training, we were hoping for a Spring Baby so that I could connect my maternity leave with a nice long summer before
returning to the classroom.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
With May 1987, came another season of sadness and despair as we had one after another negative pregnancy test. It seemed that everyone we knew was having their first or second child. Married for five years, this was a season of adversity in our marriage. We both wondered aloud and privately if we would ever have the privilege of being parents. During my 1987-1988 Christmas Break, I found myself pleading with my God more than ever before.
I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 and placed it in this frame.
Soon after this, a snow-filled, early January Monday kept my husband and me home from work.
God can't give us peace and happiness apart from himself because there is no such thing.
Overjoyed to have this unexpected holiday together, we would later discover that this day was likely the day that our first-born child was finally conceived. (sorry for the TMI: too much information<smile>)
Some of the lessons we learned from this experience are:
God’s timing is perfect.
God knows even better than we know what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together even when things get tough.
When we seek God, we will find Him. In adversity, He draws us into a deeper walk with Him.
God hears our pleas.
Let’s be intentional about our choice to stay connected to our God and to each other when we are weak and when circumstances get tough.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminds us that when we are weak, He is strong!)
As this new month begins, I begin to reflect more than usual on the 13th anniversary of my Mama’s passing on October 24, 2006, I wanted to share what I have learned are some of the best ways to help those who are grieving. Did you know? The definition of bereaved is “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death”.
People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, ‘Lord, teach me more compassion,’ but by going and seeking a person who needs compassion.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, an abolitionist)
This fall also marks the passing of my Daddy, six years ago. With both of my parents now gone, I have been encouraged by friends and family, alike.
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it therefore before it is too late.” Marie Edith Beynon
(1) Show Up. When you’re not sure what to do, simply be there. Those who are grieving want to know you are praying for them and that you care about their loss. This calls for us to reach for courage in order to go to the hard place and love on those in need. Show up with attention and grace.
The people we love most do become a physical part of us. When we lose them, be it by death or earthly separation, the sense of rupture is real and raw. Meghan O’Rourke
(2) Don’t worry if you don’t have the right words to say. My Mama used to tell me that if I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything, but to be physically present is always important.
(3) Remember them in the weeks and months ahead. Mark your calendar if necessary to remind yourself to drop them an encouraging note, text, or email. Share your memories of their beloved one. Mail a book, a small gift, or drop some banana bread by their home to let them know their loss has not been forgotten. Many who lose a loved one feel as though everyone else’s life is going on and they are stuck in this place of grief.
YOUR reaching out to them may be just what they need at a particular time.
(4) Speak their name. Never stop saying their loved one’s name. Some people may believe that speaking the deceased’s name will bring the survivors sadness, but instead there’s a good chance it will bring them joy as you remember their loved one by speaking his/her name often.
There are many additional ways to
come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.
While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!
Now, if someone would just remind the weather forecast that October has arrived!
Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.
“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale
What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!
Thanks to our long-time friend, Keith, we met on a blind date on October 7, 1978 for a University of Georgia home football game. On October 2, 2019, my husband, Donny and I celebrate 36 years of marriage.
The Dawgs conquered Ole Miss that day,in 1978, with a score of 42-3. What an awesome omen, a sign of good things to come regarding our future together.
We all know that a successful marriage doesn’t just happen. There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for couples. More than half of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages fail.
Today, I have for you some musings on marriage, 13,505 days since we said “I Do”.
Marriage is hard work. This relationship is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are great.
You cannot change your spouse. Don’t even try! “The greatest roadblock to a great relationship is trying to force a change through bribes or threats.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Keep your dreams alive together. “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together becomes a reality.” John Lennon
Respect and love your spouse! A good, strong marriage is based on respect.
Don’t keep secrets from your spouse. “The fewer secrets you have, the happier you will be.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Give your spouse attention. “Gift the love of your life with a hold on social media, undistracted, untelevisioned, unhurried attentiveness.” Mary Anne Radmacher
“…do not let the sun set upon your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 “Make sure you never, never argue at night. You just lose a good night’s sleep, and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway.” Rose Kennedy
Arguing and disagreeing is perfectly normal in a good marriage and fusses make the reunion so much sweeter. I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.
No one deserves unfaithfulness in a marriage! If a person is not happy enough to be faithful to the chosen one, one would hope they would just be honest and make their unhappiness known instead of sneaking around with another.
Each spouse should have the room and freedom to be who they are as an individual. “Love allows your beloved the freedom to be unlike you. Attachment asks for conformity to your needs and desires.” Deepak Chopra
No one, absolutely no one should be verbally or physically abused in a marriage relationship. Take a firm stand against this kind of treatment. We teach people how to treat us.
If this appeals to you and your love, take occasional, brief trips away from one another. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. We’ve been doing this since the beginning of our 35 year marriage and believe it to be a great thing.
When choosing a guy, take note of how he treats his mother. This may be a good sign about how he treats women, in general.
Develop true love and an alignment of the same fundamental values in going for a successful marriage. “…a cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
At all costs, avoid criticizing your spouse, especially in the presence of others. It NEVER helps, and often makes things worse.
Listen To Each Other. “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is not saying.” Anonymous
CARE deeply for your spouse. “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Share and grow a common faith. “Faith is the highest passion in a human being.” Soren Kierkegaard “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.
Persistence always pays off! “Don’t give up. There are too many naysayers out there who will try to discourage you. Don’t listen to them.
The only one who can make you give up is yourself.” Sidney Sheldon “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize
how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison
No matter who the bread-winner is, share the chores in the home and the care of the children. This builds both teamwork and camaraderie. “Many hands make light work.” A Proverb
A good marriage is an intimate and loving relationship which gives both partners security, friendship, companionship, support, comfort, and deep love that penetrates every aspect of life. None of this can be achieved without work and sacrifice.
For a marriage to succeed, both partners must be committed to its success. Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being (Ephesians 5:31-32). Henry Cloud; John Townsend, Boundaries in Marriage
Once your children are married, try your best not to give unsolicited advice. And if they do ask for advice, help them with that one thing, without bringing the subject up again. (unless they do)
Look Around. Who are the ones you hang out with most of the time? Be sure they are folks who are as committed to a long-time marriage as you are.
Say “I Love You”, when you say “Good Night.
Now that we are first-time grandparents, we are relishing this amazing season together. Supporting each other’s efforts as we hold these tiny ones, care for them, and pour our hearts and souls into loving them.
And another great tip added by my friend, Jan Kelly: Practice good manners with your spouse: please, thank you, excuse me, I’M SORRY (often!) Forgive Every Day. (thanks, Jan!)
What are some of your thoughts on how to build a successful marriage? Post your comments below or on my Facebook Page: Pages From Joan
What feeds you and me? Let’s follow our heartsong.
Change is Inevitable. Growth is Optional. I’ve been thinking about some changes I would like to make and I am realizing more and more that changes must first take place from the inside out.
There is no doubt that there is a lot of evil, a ton of loss,so much sadness in our world today, what with the continued, enormous conflict and divisiveness in our own country and across our globe. There are storms, like a current one named “Dorian”, that come up and disturb our sense of peace, our well-being.
Terrorists and criminals 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.
Life circumstances catch us off guard with the sudden death of a loved one, the delivery of a scary diagnosis, a job loss.
Call it naivety…
…but what if we decided to “fight back”, not with weapons, but with hope paired with our fear? What if we decided to intentionally have guarded optimism about our future days?
“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
There was a brave, young soul, named Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, who lived between the years of 1991-2004.
“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
Despite a rare, debilitative disease (dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy) Mattie managed to publish five poetry books before his passing at the age of 13.
“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
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!
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
“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, earthquakes, or tax collectors, let’s follow our heart song. Let’s start within our own families, in our homes, today.
Today as I was driving home, there was a huge traffic jam in my community, a suberb just north of Atlanta. All of the roads within blocks from the square in all directions were tangled up with congestion. I was on a road just a few cars from a RR crossing, which should have been a fine route home, except for the fact that the train was sitting at a dead stop.
What to do? Which route to take? Do I wait on the train? If so, will it be a terribly long wait? As I sat and processed all this, trying not to get stressed out, many commuters behind me had already begun to make their decision and were turning around. I was hesitant to do this because as I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw that all the roads were blocked. So, I chose to sit and wait. 5, 10, 20, 25 minutes while cars all around me chose to perform u-turns. I open both windows and allow the summer air to blow into my car. I hear shouts of the children at a nearby church playground, and I wait on this train that may never move.
As I continued to wait, I thought about how in life we have a lot of paths we can choose. I was reminded of Robert Frost’s memorable poem, penned in 1916: The Road Not Taken “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood…I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Now in my sixth decade of life, it seems that we are faced with more news than usual, and the news, unfortunately, is not always good. Maybe it is because our circle of friends has broadened as we have grown. Perhaps it is because we have greater knowledge, greater wisdom, shall I say, about what can come about as life progresses.
When unexpected, unsettling news would come to us, my Mama always said, “Let’s have ‘guarded optimism’, and let’s see what the morning brings.”
Mama also said, “Let’s not borrow trouble from tomorrow.”
As Pastor Ike said last Sunday, “I don’t want this season to be the Twilight of my life, I want it to be the Highlight of my life.
It would do our hearts good to consider what path we will take when faced with difficult news. We can collapse into nothingness…and if we do that for a bit, it is understandable. We can decide to take the path of courage amidst trial and follow down that path with encouragement from God and friends who care. WE might choose anger and stay stuck there for awhile. And sometimes news will just cause us to sit and wait until it sinks in. If we really stop and think about it, we can even choose to look for the upside of a situation. We can always, yes, always, choose our response to our circumstances.
Charles Swindoll’s message on Attitude is one I reflect on often:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
As I waited for the train to move, an elderly gentleman, a pedestrian, walked over to my car and instructed me on how, in his opinion, I should turn around and find a new route. And I did…arriving home in the next few minutes.
Which path will you and I choose in the days ahead? None of us are promised tomorrow.
“Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery. Today is a Gift and that is why we call it The Present!”Previous Posts You May Have Missed:
Many may wonder why should we volunteer? When asked about why a group of folks took time out each week to volunteer, the answers were inspiring. To feel needed, to share a skill, to get to know a community different from myself, to demonstrate commitment to a cause or a belief, to gain leadership skills, and to accomplish a civic duty.
Volunteers are love in motion.
Five Reasons We Should Volunteer:
(1) Studies have shown that volunteers live longer and healthier lives.
(2) Volunteering can help you establish strong relationships.
(3) Volunteering can complement your career.
(4) Volunteering helps society.
(5) Volunteering gives you a strong sense of purpose.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Anyone who has done any amount of volunteeringfor any measure of time would likely agree that when we give to others with our heart that we can reap benefits which are glorious and unimaginable. Simply being a good listener, expressing joy and humor, or offering a genuine, friendly smile, can contribute to lighting up another person’s life. Volunteering can have many surprising benefits!
One cool thing about volunteering is that you can choose an area that you are passionate about. Your love for animals could lead to spending some time helping out at a rescue shelter or a Veterinarian’s office. If reading inspires you, spend some time reshelving books at your local library. Are you an empty nester who misses having little ones in your home, then consider contacting a local indigent hospital, like Grady Memorial Hospital. Here, you may be able to rock babies one afternoon a week. In my recent past, I have chosen The Extension as one of my main volunteer opportunities for Volunteerism since it opened in 2009. The raw courage exhibited by the women who reside there has always challenged me in my personal journey.
Oh, and volunteering does not have to be a weekly commitment. It may involve simply providing a meal for a family who is dealing with adversity, join a Mission Team abroad or near home, or simply giving a ride to someone who needs one. Just being on the look out for who’s in your path, you will soon see many ways to lend a hand.
Studies have shown that volunteering is particularly beneficial to adults age 65 and older, and those who serve more than 100 hours each year. Volunteers are more likely to report a greater sense of well-being, and of purpose and meaning in their lives, than nonvolunteers. Older adults, who may be prone to social isolation, volunteering can offer strong social networks and a way to stay active in the community. Our parents were a great example of this as volunteers for Meals On Wheels late in their lives.
There has been a debate for some time now regarding whether or not high schoolers should be required to earn a certain number of community service hours. While time management is a real issue, having raised two young adults, we have seen significant benefits of their involvement in their community and beyond. There are many of the positives that can come from your teen being involved in service, whether it is required, or not. I am proud to know 18-year-old Aidan, who is on a mission to share the joy and necessity of giving to all. Aidan is a speaker, singer, and songwriter and you can like his Facebook page here. Aidan’s website is Aidan Cares.
I would love to hear in the comments below what you have chosen to do as a volunteer.
If you haven’t gotten involved as a volunteer, why not consider starting today?
We can all agree that our globe has been turned upside with the sudden turn of events since the initial spread of the Corona Virus around December 31, 2019 in the community of Wuhan, China. We’ve been asked to social distance, shelter-in-place, and take every precaution necessary to keep ourselves safe from this ruthless rival. We’ve had (lots of) time alone. Time to think, time to ponder our life circumstances prior to this unexpected interruption.
We can also agree that for the most part, these circumstances have brought out the very best in the human soul.
I have been wrestling lately about how I can best express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. Especially during the tumultuous and uncertain times that we find ourselves currently living in.
A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking is synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.
I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free.
Shanel Cooper Sykes
Raised in a Southern Baptist Church with my five brothers and sisters, I now consider myself more of a Christ-follower than a member of a certain denomination. At age nine, I professed belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As I grew, I believed God had my back, but I made the choice to stray away from a close walk with Him, for approximately ten years of my life. There is nothing wasted in God’s Economy. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that God used my time away to mold and deepen my faith in Him. It was during that time away that I learned about compassion, courage, forgiveness, and repentance.
I’ve often heard the question:
“If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”
Well, I was certainly the one who moved away from Him for that season of my life, but I see, looking back on that time, that He never, ever left me. I must say my time away has taught me so much about patience (on God’s part), compassion towards myself and my fellow-man, and love towards all created humans.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, when Donny and I, together as a couple, had begun to move closer to God again. We spent three years of our marriage dealing with infertility, and you can read about that part of my journey here. In December 1987, while I was on Christmas break as a teacher, I found myself pleading with God to give us our first child. I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 in a small frame to keep on my desk.
Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988.
I believe He has been wooing me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
A few things that I learned during this season of my life:
God’s timing is perfect.
God, Creator is never surprised by the events that occur on this earth, not births, deaths, horrific events of nature or virulent viruses.
God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves.
The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work-to the best of our ability, assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform. And that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.
One of my favorite bumper stickers states:
CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT.
THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)
I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.
And now, today, with all that has transpired in my over six decades of life, and everything that is taking place during these unforeseen times, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our 19-month-old grandson , Tripp and our 19-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking.
Oh, how He Loves You and Me.
What do you think?
Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations.
It is both ultimately and intimately between each created human and God.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 46:1;10 and 91:1