A SPOT OF SUNSHINE Let's Watch For Them

With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.

Two of our FF (Friends Forever) group, Jan and Jane Ellen. Yes, friends since Fernbank Elementary.

As a sixty-something woman, I am  grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.

As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.

That spot of sunshine may be the simplest thing. The simple things can be missed if we are not in the habit of watching for them.

This may have come to me in a smile, a kind word, a note in the mail, a loving hug, an encouraging text or email, artwork, birthday celebrations, a laugh, a song, a written message or verse, a yummy taste of a favorite food, the chance to aid another, sweet memories, excellent health care, and the way my loved ones say my name, just to name a few.

Measuring The Moments…the “spots of sunshine” with our two children, Leah and Walker, when they were growing. (1993-1994)

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.
“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
~James M. Barrie~

What are the spots of sunshine that you are most comforted and encouraged by
during this crazy season we are finding ourselves in?

Let’s Watch For Them.

Taylor’s Ride with dear friends. October 2018.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

Wholehearted Wednesday: A Time To Look Inside Your Heart

Mustard-Sized Faith

Musings On Marriage

What Is Happening? Write It Down.

A Loving Eulogy for My Father

25 Memories From This Mama’s Heart

Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

Pandemic Alterations Let's Work Our Muscles!

Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”

Click here to listen to this great song.

It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.

This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!

How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.

Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.

How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.

I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.

Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.

I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.

Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:

“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short-term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well.
Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the  days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
What is no longer serving us?
Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
Let’s Start Today!

P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!

Gloria Standard, otherwise known as “Shoots”, hugs our daughter, Leah, in celebration of the birth of her very first great-grandchild, Michael Scott Andrews III.
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The Day I Rang The Salvation Army Bell Each One Reach One

It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.

Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?

Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.

Donations ready for those in need!
Just look at all of the donations we collected from generous friends and family on December 22, 2019!

As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.

Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there. 

I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.

As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!

I was so glad I grabbed these chocolate Santa lollipops as an afterthought. They were appreciated by both young and old, alike.

The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)

This Mama told me Salvation Army had saved her from difficult circumstances in her past, and she was happy for the chance to give back with a donation.

Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home)  I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket.  As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)

Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.

I was reminded of that old song first penned in 1955, “Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin In Me”.

YOU can listen to this song here.

Each One Reach One.

Let’s Start Today.

The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

“The Sandwich Technique” is a mindful, sensitive communication strategy which everyone (including sensitive people) can use to transform the relationships with their partner, friends, family, and co-workers.

Check out this link for a great, quick read about The Sandwich Technique.

This technique is not intended to be fake or simply to placate others. Being brutally direct can backfire and make people feel defensive and unable to hear your comments (no matter how useful they are).

When you use The Sandwich Technique, make requests not demands. Then, when you are communicating about a difficult issue, you sandwich the request between two positive statements. It’s a creative way of presenting challenging topics so that others can hear you. Let’s say you need more alone time. First you could say, “I appreciate all your support and I need your help with this.” Then place your request: “It would be great I can take more alone time to decompress. This will help me be even more present with you later.”

You empower your relationships by expressing your needs. Also, relationships thrive on both people feeling accepted. One patient told me, “My husband accepts me as I am. Through his acceptance I have learned to be true to myself.”

We all have issues to resolve in relationships no matter how good the match. To do this, we need to have loving, creative conversations.

The Sandwich Technique is a great way to have an important discussion with someone you care about.

When is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?

I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it. 

― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865) 

Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.

It has also been identified as “the elephant in the room”.

The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.

Positive***Negative***Positive

and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship. “The Sandwich” is a super great way to have that courageous conversation without hurting someone’s feelings.

I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.

Let’s Start Today!

Unbroken Circle Of Life, Love 5th Annual Rails To River Bicycle Ride For Taylor Read

Kelly, her brother-in-law, Brian, and her Dad, Jess, are ready to hit the VA Creeper Trail!
Joan and Delo on the Trail! WE met at TTU in 1976, over 40 years ago! The circle of life and love grows bigger.

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.

Kathy, Kelly, Delo, and Joan are ready to hit the VA Creeper Trail for the 8-mile trek to Taylor’s Shelter!

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.' Taylor's Prayer

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.' Becky Matney

Megan Read expressed the appreciation of her entire family, to the crowd of over 200. Family and friends have helped in wonderful ways to help keep Taylor’s Legacy alive. As the designer of the shelter, Meg  also talked a bit about the background of the design and structure that was approved and built in seven short months. Click here to read an earlier post and see pictures of the months of building Taylor’s shelter.

Taylor’s Sis, Megan Read traveled from San Diego, California to share the trail with us!

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!

Leah, Scott, and Tripp Andrews, our family.
Our grandson, Tripp one-year-old on 8/24/19 prepares for the kickoff of his very first VA Creeper Trail ride.

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:

Leaving A Legacy

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Fertile Prayers

Leah’s 30th Birthday in 2018
Leah and Scott’s firstborn, Tripp and his Jojo cheer on the Bulldogs vs UT Volunteers, October 5, 2019.

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.

Elizabeth Page (born 9/7/18) with Tripp Andrews (born 8/24/18)= Pure Joy for Jojo and POP!

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!

Last Year on Leah’s Big 3-0!
Leah, Scott and Tripp on the Virginia Creeper Trailhead, October 5, 2019.

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. James 1:2

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. IMG_6593

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. C.S. Lewis

 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.

IMG_6592
Leah, our first-born was well worth the wait!

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!)

Kayla and Leah
Leah and Tripp (8/24/18) Carly and Mac (born 9/29/18) These boys don’t know it yet, but they are soon to be besties!
Imagine a two-year-old with a full face of makeup! Leah and I volunteered with a group of clowns in 1990 when we visited local hospitals and nursing homes. It was all fine until she decided to have a 2-year-old meltdown!
BEST DAY EVER when Leah married her best friend, Scott Andrews on March 29, 2014!
Tripp Andrews (left) and Mac Minick (right) fast friends from the start, just like their Mommies!
Yosemite Park July 2009
Page Family 2010
Big Sis to Walker…Leah is 3 years, 4 months older than her little brother.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

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

Wrestling And Seeking

Children: Let’s Listen To Them

Four Questions For God

Where Is He?

Time For A Change Of Heart

It Is Well With My Soul

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

GriefAs 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

 I have grieved with my husband in the passing of his mother in 2010, and then his father just a few years later.. We have stood with my sister’s family (2009) in the loss of their young adult son, Brad, and more recently we have joined our dear friends in Virginia in the loss of their 23 year old son, Taylor in early 2015.

In recent years, I have also had the privilege to support others in their grief journeys. A grief book that has helped me so much is called A Grace Disguised: How The Soul Grows Through Loss.

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved:

(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.

sculpture guardian angel

There are many additional ways to

come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.

What are some actions that have helped you

during your season of bereavement?

Musings On Marriage 13,505 Days Since We Said "I Do"

10-2-82
10/2/82

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.

LIFE is an adventure with this guy by my side!

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
    Since we first met in 1979, in June and then again in August, we’ve celebrated 76 birthdays together!
  • 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.
    My Daddy escorted me on October 2, 1982 reminding me of the word, EQUANIMITY. Just as he did with my 3 sisters as they were escorted on their wedding days, the focus was on equanimity: mental calmness, composure, and coolheadedness. We’ve all come to use this as a theme to live by.
  • 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
    Our Family! Breckenridge, Colorado, March 2017
  • 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

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Can We Simply Do The Next Right Thing?

Humble And Kind

The Love Letter Challenge

4 Ways To Love Our Peeps

Pack A Shoebox Full Of Love

52 Things I Love About YOU and Other Handmade Gifts

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

I Am Still Confident of This

Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel

Wedding Tips

SaveSave

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

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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 

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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.

“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!

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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, earthquakes, 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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5 Reasons We Should Volunteer Why Should We Do It?

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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. Unknown

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.

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“Why volunteering makes us healthier is rooted in biology. One of the best ways to get your mind off your aches and pains is to get your mind on someone else,” says Stephen Post, coauthor of Why Good Things Happen To Good People: How To Live A Longer, Healthier, Happier Life By The Simple Act Of Giving, and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. This is one of the important lessons my Mama taught me: “When you are down, help someone.” Click here and here to read earlier posts which illustrate this important reminder.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

Anyone who has done any amount of volunteering for 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!

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A collage project by one of my EXT friends.

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.

In the past, I met up with the ladies there every other Wednesday and had an art therapy/collage activity with them. I believe this commitment made a real difference in my life, while encouraging the current Extension residents, as well. My personal desire to give back to the community has been renewed by the fact that I am making a difference, no matter how small. Click here to watch a quick video, one of may favorite tales about helping out: The Boy and the Starfish.

IMG_0094Oh, 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?

Group of Hands Holding Letter Volunteer

Posts You May Have Missed:

The Simple Things

Wrestling and Seeking

The Love Letter Challenge

Standing At The Crossroads

A few more collage projects from my Extension friends:

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a bookmark

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