With Christmas and Hanukkah upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. 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.
“Sometimes when you don’t know the answer, live the question.”
Many tried to tell me how I might feel as a first-time grandmother. Most exclaimed that there were no words that could describe this new relationship. I agree. I do have occasional questions about these little ones’ future. Okay, the truth is that my thoughts surround Tripp, Elizabeth and their parents, constantly, lol. Our lives have changed forever since the births of our first two grands: Michael Scott Andrews, lll (Tripp) and Elizabeth Noel Page, respectively on 8/24/18 and 9/7/18. Our grand babies are pictured here during their nightly bath time.
Will they grow strong and will they be brave enough for this tough world we reside in? Will they truly know how much I love and cherish them? How will they face life challenges that are sure to come? What will they be? I find myself praying for Elizabeth and Tripp fervently each day. My Mama did the same for her children, her grands, and her great-grands.
In over six decades of living, I have come to realize many things. More than ever before, I have seen that sometimes the questions that we have in this life do not have answers that are easy to uncover…
WHY did someone have to die so soon?
WHY can’t _____ and _____ get along better?
WHY does this habit have such a strong hold on me?
WHY is this loved one living with a disability?
WHY was my husband unfaithful to me? OR
WHY did my husband die so young leaving me with the children?
FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME OF YOUR WHYS:_______________________________
As we journey through life, I think it is important to pray and talk to trustworthy friends, and perhaps even a counselor, about the issues in our lives.
Still, sometimes the answers just don’t come this side of heaven.
So what do we do?
WE LIVE THE QUESTION. We submit ourselves to the truth that we do not know the answer and we live the question, recognizing that the question may always be with us.
In the book CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE, By, Richard Foster, the author speaks to this on page 111:
“I said that every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even a lifetime, in a perpetual stew because something did not go as they wished. They will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. They may even get an ulcer, develop health problems over it.”
So, today, take a few moments to consider what “questions” have been gnawing at you, and make the choice to simply breathe and live out your days with an understanding that some of the “answers” are not for us to know just now.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
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.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
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, and they live forever, 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!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
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!
We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.
Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.
I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this cool October morning?
“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”
As we take some time to be still for a few minutes this weekend, let us all hold close to our hearts and in our prayers the many families impacted by both recent horrific hurricanes, Florence and Michael…more proof that life can change on a dime.
Life Is Fragile, Let Us Handle It With Prayer.
When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?
I am learning that when we add to our faith, goodness, we gain encouragement from The Word. WE can add Light to the Darkness.
As I studied some scripture this morning, I was moved by the truth in the book of 2 Peter…It has so many of life’s answers in just a few short verses:
“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, LOVE.
For if you possess THESE qualities in INCREASING measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, (s)he is nearsighted and blind, and has FORGOTTEN that (s)he has been cleansed from past sins.”
2 Peter 1:5-9
So, today, if you have are asking some difficult questions of LIFE, I hope you will consider these verses as part of the answer He may have for you.
I wonder how much brighter our world might be if we possessed the qualities mentioned in these verses? I believe we could bring LIGHT to our DARK world.
I experienced a dose of DARKNESS to LIGHT last Saturday night at the 9th annual Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade. As over 70,000 spectators looked on, hundreds of participants, from all walks of life, carried bright, creative, and colorful lanterns as they marched down the Beltline. These whimsical lights brought smiles, laughter, and community…darkness to light.
I want to share one of my favorite ways to read The Word often, if not daily.
I read a Proverbs of the day, depending on the day of the month. Today, for example, I read Proverbs 24 for September 24th. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs…one for each day of the month! When I read the chapter, I choose one or two verses to consider all day long. I may write them on a 3×5 index card or a post-it note to slip into my purse. I’ve even been known to write them on the palm of my hand to glance at throughout my day.
There is such wisdom and life application in the book of Proverbs.
Billy Graham once said:
” I read five Psalms a day and that teaches me how to get along with God.
I read a chapter of Proverbs a day because that teaches me how to get along with my fellow-man.”
Here is an example of the wisdom that is in today’s Proverbs!
Proverbs 24:32 really spoke to me this morning…”I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
Did you know? The words silent and listen have the same six words in them. This verse reminds me to observe more than I talk and learn from what I see. After all, God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we would hopefully listen more than we would speak.
Our past sometimes gets in the way of our vision for the future, doesn’t it? If you and I allow ourselves to dwell on the areas where we’ve failed or on losses and disappointments that have hurt us, we might find it difficult to look forward to the future God has for us.
Just as David dreamed of building a magnificent temple, we can dare to dream of building a new life.
God has our unique layout already drawn up: we just need to follow it by faith. We may be afraid that we will start and fail, but in the words of David, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” As someone once said:
“Beginning is half done. In other words, take the first step, it’s the toughest.”
What dreams have we been quietly suppressing? What thoughts have been discouraging you? Keeping these to ourselves only makes life harder. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about building deep friendships or making an impact on your community. Don’t be frightened. When God begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it. If you have a specific prayer concern that you would like for me to join you in, email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. I would be honored to stand with you as you defeat discouragement or chase your dreams.
I hope this little time of devotion will encourage us in the days ahead.
P. S. One thing I know for sure is that a new born baby brings a magnificent amount of light into this dark world.
We have extra time on our hands here in St. Louis, between nursing, changing, and cuddling with our new granddaughter, Elizabeth Noel Page. Yesterday, our daughter-in-law, Jess and I decided to take in an afternoon movie while Elizabeth’s Daddy was at school.
Without giving away the whole story, based on true events, here are a few quotes by the authors of this story:
“If you really serious ’bout helping’ somebody, crawl down in the ditch with ’em, bandage up their wounds, and stick with ’em until they is strong enough to crawl up on your back ands get out.”
“The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or something in-between, this earth ain’t no final restin’ place. So in a way, we is all homeless—just workin’ our way home.”
“When you is precious to God, you become more important to Satan. Watch your back.”
“There’s something I learned when I was homeless. Our limitation is God’s opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothin’ you can do, that’s when God takes over.”
“I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin’ down the road God done set in front of us.”
“To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.”
“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected. The unexpected can take you out. But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life. Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
When you take time to read this book or see the movie, I am wondering what thoughts you may have afterwards?
1) love always wins
2) regardless of our race, gender or place of origin, we are similar in more ways than not
3) we all put our pants on one leg at a time
4) each of us can reach one who is in need
5) when we help someone, we are encouraged and changed
6) life is brief and kindness matters
7) judgment is never okay we never know where one’s shoes have trod
Note: This post was first published on January 17, 2016 and updated on September 27, 2018…There Is Always HOPE!
I had the opportunity to attend a MAG Alliance annual meeting this past Tuesday, September 25, 2018.
I learned so much that it prompted me to re-publish this important post.
My long-time friend, Dave invited me to hear Dr. Debra Houry, MD, MPH speak.
For four years, Dr. Houry has been the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center). During her first year, the Injury Center has aided states in preventing prescription drug overdose.
Dr. Houry reminded our audience that there must be a concerted national approach against the opioid crisis. This crisis has come in three waves: 1: a rise in prescription drug deaths, 2: a rise in heroin deaths, and 3: a rise in synthetic opioid deaths (street drugs laced with fentanyl-these deaths have increased more than 6-fold from 2013-2016.) For more information on all that our CDC is doing click here on their website: RX Awareness. The CDC RX Awareness Campaign in now active in 27 states, including GA. The phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) and there is a tool kit available on their site.
Having volunteered at The Extension, Women’s Campus, in Marietta, Georgia since its 2009 opening, my heart is extremely soft towards those who suffer with alcoholism and other addictions. With the birth of our two grands, I have stepped down for now as a volunteer. I am grateful that a friend has stepped up to carry on this tradition of having an “art therapy” session with “my girls”.
Every beating heart has a story, and the more I have worked with these women, the more I have realized that they have the same hopes and dreams for their future that you and I have for ourselves and for our families.
If you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs,
My Story My story is a story of redemption and a story of great hope restored. It’s a story that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love that God has for each and every person on the face of the earth. I feel like my story is a great demonstration of how God can make all things beautiful, no matter how messy we make them. The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever even think to ask for. My story is one that shows it’s only when we die that we truly find life.
Growing up I had an amazing childhood with a great family. I played sports and loved to play out in the woods. I went to church with my family and was involved in all kinds of great positive activities. At 5 I first prayed to Jesus to come and save me and when I was 8, I was baptized. Then the next year something started to change. Because of a series of events, I became aware of a much different reality in this world than I was accustomed to and became really confused and angry.
My teen years I was filled with rage, confusion and depression. I started using alcohol and drugs at 12 and began a lifestyle pursuing the perfect mixture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. My life dramatically changed at 15 when I started using pain killers and taking club drugs. I remember my first time getting high on pills; I thought I had finally found what I had always been missing. I thought I had finally found the peace I had been searching for…
For the next few years I headed down a path of total destruction and eventually started using heroin. When I first tried to stop at age 19 my girlfriend at the time became pregnant with my son, Landon. I tried to get myself together as we prepared to have a baby but I could not seem to get it together.
As parents watch the nightmare unfold when their teen becomes self-destructive, they wonder how they will ever reconnect with the son or daughter that they fear they are losing. It is the most helpless, hopeless feeling in the world, and it can overwhelm an entire family with unimaginable pain, chaos, and despair.
from Teen Challenge Website
When my son was born I was in a detox facility having terrible withdrawals from drugs. I was so happy to have my son come into the world but was also still so consumed by my addiction. I made another decision I would get it all together that day in the hospital.
I ended up in a longer-term faith-based program and made a decision to follow Christ. When I finished the program I went home with an honest desire to start new but still was holding on to so much of my life. I had an ambition to get it all together and make everything work between my son’s mother and me. We got married that summer and I idealized pursuing The American Dream with my new wife and our baby. The dream was short-lived when we separated the next year. I was crushed when my dream was crushed. I had invested everything into this relationship and this dream. When it fell apart, so did the rest of my life.
I started using drugs again and spiraled out of control the rest of that year. I remember my first wake up call was going to jail in Atlanta for possession of cocaine and then immediately after I got out I went to get more drugs. After my heart had stopped due to a drug overdose, I remember buying more drugs the day I was released from the hospital. When I had no where else to go and ended up sleeping on the streets of a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, I can remember still only thinking about how I could get high. My life was consumed with this addiction and I was on the verge of suicide.
That’s when everything changed. My dad and I got in touch and he told me he had found out about a program called Teen Challenge and that he would help me got there. At first I was reluctant to go, but the next morning I woke up and felt something inside me say, “If you don’t get out of this place, you are going to die.” With urgency I called my dad and told him where I was. Then after waiting a few minutes, I changed my mind and left to go get high again. When my dad finally found me I was at an abandoned house, cold and shaking because of how many drugs I had been doing. I remember thinking I would kill him if he tried to take my drugs. He just sat there and watched me smoking crack and doing other drugs until they were all finally gone. When I finished I put the needles and pipe down and I remember him saying with a heart full of compassion, “Come with me son.”
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. (Psalm 18)
I can relate so much to what David wrote in this Psalm when I reflect on how the Lord used my dad to rescue me out of the darkest place I could have ever imagined. When I look back I can imagine God’s hand reaching down from heaven to pull me out of the dark pit and rescuing me from enemies that really were too strong for me to overcome myself. God saved my life that day because he delighted in me even in my mess. When He saw me at my worst He loved me as much as he ever could or ever will. He loved me completely and with all of His heart. He pursued me no matter how far I tried to run away. He had a plan and a purpose even when no one else could see it.
A month or so later I made the most important decision in my life. I made the decision not to just avoid hell or to be a better person for Jesus. I didn’t just pray the sinner’s prayer and feel all tingly. I made a decision to die to self. I decided one day on a loading dock that I would absolutely give everything in my life to Jesus and hold nothing back. That day has forever changed me.
The next year or two I began to grow and deal with the many problems I had struggled with so many years of my life. One by one, the Lord just began to take away things from me. He took away even the desires that I had for these destructive behaviors as I continued to get in His presence and read His word. My life started to radically change and something new started to rise up inside of me. God started placing passions inside of me and began showing me that He had great destiny and purpose for my life. It was when He began to reveal to me my identity and destiny that I really began to strip off anything that hindered me from walking with Him. It wasn’t a set of rules that made me want to change but the overwhelming reality of His great love for me that filled my heart with a passion to pursue Him with everything.
These last four years God has restored my relationship with my son Landon. It has been an amazing miracle to watch him change the impossible to possible. When I first got off drugs I wasn’t even allowed to see Landon in supervised visitation. Today I have joint custody and have an amazing relationship with his mom and their family. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I ever could have imagined.
God has also given me opportunities to travel and do things I never thought would be possible. I have been able to do mission work in South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, Canada and Europe. He has also given me a chance to travel all over the U.S. and share about all He has done for me. He has given me so many amazing friends and has restored my relationship with my family. He has healed me of all depression, anxiety and ADD. He has completely taken away my desire to take drugs, drink or even smoke cigarettes. He has replaced my suicidal thoughts with a life full of passion, hope and joy. When I chose to die completely and give Him everything I got so much more in return. He has given me a life of abundance.
My life’s mission is to abide in Christ’s love in such a way that others are inspired to pursue God with reckless abandonment and that my life would burn so passionately for God that it would set countless others on fire for Him.
My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride. “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.
“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”
As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.
The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here.
February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.
The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom.
Author, Annie F. Downs
Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction. At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.
From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.
Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!) Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you. ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.