New season. New start. What does it look like from your view?
I am taking a time out here on Pages From Joan amidst changing landscapes, new hopes and dreams.
The phone conversation took place only a few days before my Mama’s passing in October of 2006. I hadn’t summoned the courage to cry with her about her imminent death following a few short months of an esophageal cancer diagnosis. So when I returned to my home from a visit, the emotional dam broke as the tears flowed. “It’s a new beginning, Joan,” my Mama said softly, knowing that her time here on earth was drawing to an end.
We're all just walking each other home.
Today, that thought returns to me as I have decided to start another new beginning for me. Starting now, for a season, I will focus more on my book project and less on my Pages From Joan.
With each passing day, I am making more self-discoveries. Is that how the aging process works? I believe so, if we are open to the breakthroughs that can come with constructive comments by those who love us the most.
And yet, I am at a fork-in-the-road again, wondering how well I have been taking care of myself of late. I feel out of balance. How about you? Is it time for a new beginning in your life journey? Remember the story about the oxygen mask? Click here to read it. Do you consistently put your O2 mask on before helping others? The moral of the story being that you can’t pour a glass of water when you’re cup is empty. Ironically, this scenario is more a lesson in giving than it is in selfishness.
I so appreciate you, my readers, the ones who have followed my Pages. You who have encouraged me so along the way, sending me messages, comments and even notes in the mail. THANK YOU!
I plan to take a few months furlough with a projection to return later this year. Meanwhile, I would love to stay in touch. If you would like to communicate with me via email, through Facebook Messenger, or even by being pen pals, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The day following the “tree obstacle”, on Wednesday morning, the fog was incredibly dense. I could only see directly in front of my headlights. I had to pause for a moment on the side of the road to take this shot as my mind considered the traveling obstacle before me.
Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and arriving early enough for Morning Song at 7:45, I slipped into a cold metal folding chair. I was just in time to hear song composer/musician, Dawn Davis ask a question of the sleepy audience:
“I need a volunteer to give me a random phrase. It can be about anything. Casey, can you give me one?”
“Hmmmmm, how about ‘The fog lifted.’? answered Casey, a young lady who was living on campus for 9 weeks as part of the Work Study Program.
Dawn’s guitar began to strum as she hummed and began composing a song about the fog. A song, that soon had lyrics that we all sang together.
That random phrase resonated with my heart, as I considered the connection between the fog and the obstacle that was in my path just the day before.
“The Fog Lifted.” Perhaps this would be a new motto for my life, a new tagline for me to live each day by. As in,’ this too will pass’, the fog will always lift over time.
How does one decide to live this way? With confidence that the obstacle will be removed from my path soon enough, that the fog will lift in due time?
This reminds me of another one of my Mama’s golden nuggets of wisdom. In good times as well as discouraging times, I want to have guarded optimism that all circumstances will work out.
There is no rushing through and beyond the obstacles, in our day, such as trees and fog. Meantime, applying this to our life, I encourage you and I to focus on one of my all time most beloved scriptures:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1; 10
What are the roadblocks in your life and in mine? Are they long-term obstacles? Short-term? Are they there to help us to slow down, to remind us to take our time, to initiate meditation with God? Perhaps obstacles show up to teach us something about ourselves, such as the fear factor I shared in my roadblocks post.
Whatever the reason for the snags, the obstructions, the complications in our daily journey, let’s begin to look at these as opportunities for growth, rather than a big ‘ole fat interruption!
Our family has enjoyed a week long stay here in Breckenridge, Colorado, at the Robrooke Inn.
Here are 6 life lessons that keep mulling around in my mind and heart:
(1) Open Your Eyes.It was on Tuesday afternoon when Leah, Donny and I were taking in a few runs before we met up with Jessica, Scott, and Walker for a late lunch. Standing completely still at the side of a blue slope, I suddenly watched a speeding skier collide into my husband and daughter as I looked on from a few feet away. Skis flew off, and Leah was flipped from right side up onto her stomach. Leah’s first instinct was to yell at the top of her lungs: “Open Your Eyes!!!” Fortunately, there were no long-lasting injuries. This reminded me of Tony, our Sunday ski instructor’s message to us. “98% of success with skiing is using your eyes.” Later, my mind began reeling and I soon applied this to life. Matthew 6:22-23 tells us: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Let’s keep our eyes wide open for all of the lessons that are swirling around us on any given day.
(2) Never Give Up! Because I had dual hand surgeries in 2010, I had not taken up snow skiing for nearly a decade. Needless to say, I was nervous, especially at age 58 about how I would do on the slopes. I even decided to take a private lesson with Jess, our daughter-in-law, who was a complete beginner and Scott, our son-in-law, who had only been on a snowboard in his past. Our instructor was awesome and encouraging as he told me it would be like getting back onto a bicycle. It wasn’t quite that easy, but I am skiing again and it feels really good. This was a good reminder to me to keep moving as I age. Don’t stop and never ever quit!
(3) Spend Time Outdoors. Now, I know that this lesson is a given, but some of us, including myself forget the pure benefits that come with being outside in nature, breathing clean air, and taking in the beauty of creation. So, yes, this is one of my lessons from the slopes. In fact, for as long as I can remember there is a song that I have hummed to myself while I have been downhill skiing. Click here to listen to this song I learned in my youth: ‘He’s Everything To Me’.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
(4) Carve Your Own Path. We split up after lunch on Tuesday, ’cause everyone had their own idea of how they wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon. Some wanted to get in a few more runs, some wanted to go in for an apres ski beverage and snack, and I wanted to come on home to work on this blog post. In life, it is often easy to compare ourselves to others and where we are in our life journey. It is better to follow your own personal path that works for you. I read a recent blog called “Be Encouraged, You’re Better Than You Think” post that speaks to this truth reminding us that we should break free of comparing ourselves to others. There is just no good in that . Click here to read this blog post.
(5) Celebrate Your Uniqueness. As we skied all day on Sunday with major snow pouring out of the sky, I started thinking about the uniqueness of each and every flake that fell upon the earth around me. Click here to watch a brief video showing miraculous snowflakes. While there are so many similarities between us as people, we really are so very unique, and when you stop and think about it, that is pretty amazing! Love yourself, love others, allow everyone be who they are and simply LOVE. Love Always Wins!
On Thursday afternoon, I enjoyed meeting artist, Gabriel right around The Village Courtyard on the cusp of The Quandry Bar and Grill. Gabriel is obviously a budding artist and I was glad I seized the moment to stop and admire his work.
(6) Take In Life’s Peaks And Valleys. Just looking at the Rocky Mountains brings you to automatically think about the peaks and valleys that come with life. down then up, up then down. Yes! Life is certainly full of unexpected twists and turns, tears and laughter. Our faith, our family, and our friendships can help sustain us each day, multiplying joy and dividing sorrow. Life is so full of peaks and valleys and I have learned that we are here to support each other during the various ups and downs that come with day-to-day life.
What are some life lessons we can pick up as we go through our daily lives?
How are you and I making special memories with our families?
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.
But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.
A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:
How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?
Some think that “killing time” is a bad thing. It may be described as “passing time” or “waiting for another event to come along”. Some may even say killing time is a waste of time. However, a couple of weekends ago, 7 college friends came to visit me in Marietta for a three-night slumber party, and while we passed a ton to time together, I’d say no time was wasted! We all sure missed our ninth member, Leslie, who was out of the country celebrating her husband, Mike’s 60th!!
We took advantage of many, many hours together to hang out, munch on yummy food, share our hearts, exercise, create art, and dine out at a favorite restaurant, Capers On Main Bar and Grill. Yes, one could say we were just killing time, but we were actually fostering our deep friendships, laughing, which is good medicine for the soul, by the way, just spending time together, and even celebrating JoAnn’s 6-0 together. Sometimes this world, our schedules, get so crazy and full that we forget to stop and do something that nourishes our souls. That is what this post is about…killing enough time to refuel, nurture, and feed our whole being. Spending time with girlfriends is the perfect way to do just that!
What are some ways you can plan to kill some time doing something that restores your soul? If you live near the Marietta Square, I hope you will check out Just Kiln’ Time A Paint Your Own Pottery and Art Studio. The cool thing is that they offer so many different options, including children’s birthday parties, girls night out, solitary art time, and pack-up-a-pottery-party, like they did for us!
And all things must come to an end, packed up with “roses to go”!
Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps. As Valentine’s Day draws near, our minds go to the significant, loving relationships in our life journey. Are they fulfilling, communicative, in harmony, and committed? Do we enjoy time spent with these we are in relationship with? Do we laugh together? Most of us if we are completely honest, would say, that our relationships could be better.
One of the things my Mama taught me is a tool she used during her 58 years of marriage. When the faults of her man seemed glaring to her, she would take a moment, hold out both hands in front of her, like a scale, and say this to herself: “My right hand represents Johnny’s shortcomings, and my left hand represents the ways that I fall short.” Invariably, she would tell me, her left hand always weighed heavier than her right.
'Dear Friends, Let us love one another, for love comes from God.'
1 John 4:7
Rather than wanting our partners to change so things would be better, perhaps it is time to determine how we could show up differently and make the difference we are seeking.
Here are three ways to better love our peeps:
1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out
This first one may surprise you, as it has less to do with your relationships and more to do with your inner heart. Did you know? Studies have shown that one will never let oneself have more health, happiness, and success than one feels he/she deserves. What does that mean? This means that right this minute you and I are attracting what we feel worthy of having. What would you say your current self-worth score is on a scale of 1-10? What things could you do to increase that score? Before we can expect to find love from anyone else, we first have to find it within ourselves. Our God loves us and wants us to have self-worth and self-respect. And let’s surround ourselves with people who truly love and support us!
'Friends are like elevators. They either take us up or bring us down.'
(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind
I know when I criticize my husband of nearly 35 years, he literally shuts down, not with anger, just sadness. Blaming and judging will guarantee a poor partnership! Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself, and everything else will fall into place.” Could it be that there is something you are ‘unhappy’ within yourself? Think about it! An important relationship is our connection to our own heart. When we accept ourselves as we are, then and only then can we accept others without condition.
(3) Let The Past Go
Every beating heart has a story and our history (thank goodness!!!) is not our destiny. It’s good to habitually say to ourselves: “That was then. This is now.” We all have things in our past we may not be proud of, but we can let that all go and focus on today. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call today, ‘the present'” (unknown)
(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation
Wayne Dyer said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In every loving relationship, there are more good things than bad things going on. However, if the negative things become our ‘focal point’, then they seem way bigger and become more and more dominant in our partnership. Read this by Charles Swindoll on Attitude. We all get to choose the thoughts that control our feelings and emotions that end up driving our lives.
Now, we all know that Valentine’s Day is just one more day established by Hallmark, LOL!
Love Always Wins!
What are some of the ways you and I can exhibit more love towards our peeps each and every day of the year? How can we make our parents, sons, daughters, girlfriends, and partners feel more treasured and cherished in the days ahead?
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
The holiday season has come and gone and ours was very full, as I am sure yours was, as well. Here are a few pictures to illustrate some of my highlights:
I know you have special photos of your moments with friends and family and I am hoping you might share them in the comment space below!
Having been around for nearly six decades, the whole subject of New Year’s Resolutions causes me to yawn. What is the use of them? What is the benefit of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves in a world that already has enough stress as it is? Now, don’t get me wrong! I do believe in goals and change and progressing towards a better life. But I have also learned, that for me, anyway, that it is more about the journey itself than it is about the destination. I want to be kinder to myself, more compassionate towards my fellow humans, and more faithful to my God.
Here are a few things that I found on social media that caused me to pause, to be still for a moment, and consider how I want to navigate into this new year: 2017.
So, I encourage you, along with me to say:
‘THANK YOU for being in my life, and helping me to continue to learn, to grow, and to smile past the struggles, while counting my blessings.”
Thanks to all of you out there who follow my Pages From Joan. Please help me this year by sharing any posts that resonate with your heart.
We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).
Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned. Like most women, our calendars are always full of engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.
If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar
We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together, bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.
At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.
As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.
Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!
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.
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
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.
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)