Can We Simply Do The Next Kind Thing?

IMG_8542What if every one of us simply the next kind thing?

What if every human woke up and made an intentional decision to do the next kind thing with everyone they encountered on that new day? How would our tumultuous world be different if we were simply kinder? I believe this is a question Daniel Lubetzky had pondered before he founded The Kind Movement in 2008.

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

Did You Know? The spring-board for this movement was a line of healthy products that were first developed in 2004. They are sold everywhere and you have probably tried one or two of them. They are still a popular choice 13 years later. So the next time you grab a delicious snack called a KIND bar, think about the origin of this treat!

The KIND Movement is a mission to inspire kindness. Small acts or big, this movement encourages it—from writing a thank you letter to someone who deserves it to volunteering with an organization you care about. Every day, our community (aka YOU!) brings us one step closer to our goal of making kindness a state of mind.

Need some inspiration for your kids or for yourself?

Click Here for some printable kindness cards produced by The Kind Movement.

Or here for a cool kindness checklist!

Was there bullying in your childhood or in the childhood of someone you love? Sadly, this was the case for founders of the Kind Campaign, Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson when they were college classmates. Their attempt at growing more kindness in our world is now  an internationally  recognized nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting girl-against-girl bullying through their global movement, documentary film, in-school assemblies and educational curriculums.

One more way to show kindness to those in our path is to put our phones away! Our phones are becoming a wall between us hindering communication and intimacy with one another.

Make A Difference With “Catch A Lift” Help A Wounded Veteran Today!

You can make a difference with CAL or Catch A Lift, which began in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, and has gone on to help many veterans since its founding.

IMG_5669
My friend, Nancy Bray’s precious foster golden retriever.

After 9/11/01 and every anniversary of September 11th since that horrific day of tremendous loss, a phrase sticks out in my mind:

We Will Never Forget!!!

13265903_10208593760777742_2133255965193609431_n
Our friend, Rosie Moon reads the gravestone of a veteran servant.

We say we will remember forever the true sacrifice, day in and day out, of men and women in uniform, whether they be first responders or part of our strong military services.

And yet, is that statement really true, other than the usual times of remembering, Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and other red, white, and blue celebrations? Do you and I really remember these souls who serve and their families in our prayers? Do we truly recognize that freedom is not free, and how many grave sacrifices have been made on our behalf? Do we intentionally share our resources in causes related to wounded veterans?

'Shake off any dust that may accumulate from stagnation of purpose.' Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009)

Our daughter, Leah, is running a 10k in February, and she is showing her support for our veterans by running in honor of the Catch a Lift foundation, founded in memory of Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009).

Leah is raising funds for the Catch a Lift foundation, and she needs your help!

****I am thankful for a large group of my girlfriends who have already pooled together a donation of $200.00 during Summer of 2016!!! Thanks, GG girls!

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to donate by clicking here.

IMG_1075
Our friend, Will Kramer shows his respect.

Founded in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, Catch A Lift Fund (CAL) enables post 9/11 combat wounded Veterans to regain and maintain their physical and mental health by providing granted gym memberships, fitness programs or in-home gym equipment, anywhere in the United States. If a veteran has an appointed VA certified caregiver, the caregiver is eligible as well.

In addition, CAL’s M.A.P.S. Program ensures success by tracking progress and offers motivation, accountability and peer support through small squads of Veterans who heal together Vet to Vet. CAL Veterans are not only losing weight and moving away from obesity, but also eliminating the need for multiple prescription medications and finding their “new self”. CAL Veterans are thriving, reintegrating, healing and saving each other’s lives through newly established comradery; filling the void left after military service.

Won’t you jump on board and support this important cause?

All donations, big and small are appreciated and it is easy to give by clicking here.

Thanks in advance for supporting our daughter, Leah, in her efforts to make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans.

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day: Know The Difference

Never Forget

The Hospitality of Gander, New Foundland

Man’s Best Friend

To Stay Fit: Don’t Just Sit

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances? Help Someone: Part Two

Continuation from…

“Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One 

Is your path littered with hard circumstances today? In my upcoming book, you will see this life lesson my Mama taught me is just what you need! If you have not read Part One, (linked above), please read it first.

IMG_7238

Tragically, Hurricane Katrina and the broken levies had just flooded New Orléans. In the nearby Boots Ward Recreational Center, there was a Red Cross shelter, a safe haven for some of the Katrina evacuees. I drove straight to this center and found out that there was a volunteer position available for the following Monday, 6-10 a.m.

As I signed up, I felt the sadness start to ease.
On that Monday,  I arrived at my appointed time, unaware that someone would be placed in my path who would change my life. I soon met Sarah L. Johnson, a Katrina evacuee who had resided in New Orléans her entire life. Sarah was 85 years old, had never married, and had no children. Funny, she said she had always wanted to visit Atlanta, but didn’t realize she would come like this. The story of how she got here is a story in and of itself. After the initial evacuation, though there was a power outage, Sarah and her fellow residents returned to their apartments. When she heard banging on her door, she glanced out the window only to find that the water was rushing into the streets and rising rapidly. We now know that the levies had broken down, but at that time, the residents had no idea what the rushing water was from. They hurried to the roof of the building where they stayed overnight until a helicopter could pluck each one of them off the roof. When boarding the helicopter, in all the confusion, this 85-year-old woman lost her walker, her glasses, her shoes, and worst of all Sarah found herself separated from a friend who was holding all of her IDs for her.

'One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.' Albert Schweitzer
Sometimes our greatest disappointments are God’s appointments, a chance to bless another person’s life.  A friendship soon developed with Sarah which would change my life for evermore.
When I first met Sarah, she was just waking up in the Red Cross Shelter. I helped Sarah with her laundry, got her breakfast. She talked with me about her strong faith in God and how surely God had a plan for her even in this crazy situation. Feeling more encouraged, at the end of my shift, I gave her a hug, thinking I’d never see her again this side of heaven.

img_0222
Sarah Johnson and me, 2005

A few days later, I received a phone call from my friend, Vicki, who had worked at the same shelter, telling me that Sarah needed to see a cardiologist and could I help her to get in to see someone. I had the privilege of taking her to a doctor the very next day. Her heart was just fine and this was the beginning of a sweet friendship, one that I will forever cherish. After four weeks at the shelter, Sarah moved to a wonderful nearby assisted living facility where even though she was the only African-American woman there, she felt love and acceptance from the staff and the  other residents. She visited my weekly Bible Study at my friend, Sara’s home,  worshipped with us at our church and even gathered at my sister’s home for a huge family lunch!

'Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.' Og Mandino

Sarah Johnson shared her heart with me and told me why Psalm 27 was her mainstay scripture. Mama and I took her to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, and she told Mama and me all about her personal and vivid memories of the Civil Rights Movement.
Later, Sarah was happily returned to New Orléans to her same first floor apartment. I believe that our God gave me this opportunity to serve and help Sarah during a time when I was experiencing a broken heart over the loss of my precious friend, Jil.

img_0223
Far from home, the residents and staff were so very kind to my friend, Sarah.

Are you feeling down and going through a great disappointment today?? If so,  look up and all around.

Watch for the divine appointment that is waiting around the corner for you to become an uplifting messenger to someone today.
My older brother, John Wade, recalls how Mama was a great listener, who could easily empathize with troubled souls who fell in her path. Mama and Dad joined the local organization of “Parents Of Marines”, providing both comfort and support to those parents whose sons died or became severely wounded during the Vietnam War, which John Wade fought in. They continued this support even after John was honorably discharged from The Marines to begin college. Kathy remembers how Mama taught us to always look people in the eyes when speaking with them, and always be on the look out for ways to serve.

I am so thankful to our Mama for teaching this important tool for moving forward when things seem impossibly hard. I use this tool often, and I hope you will, too!

Posts You May Have Missed:

5 Reasons We Should Volunteer

My Own Little World

Joy Comes In The Morning

We Are Called To Be Brave

Blended Tears

Don’t Borrow Trouble

Having A Bad Day? Are You Feeling Down? Help Someone: Part One

img_6845

With the observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday just passed, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to reach out and help those we find in our path. We all have bad days, those days when we are feeling down. These are opportunities to help someone!

IMG_8463Just think, back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, if it were not for the countless citizens, both black and white, who aided others, no telling how this difficult season would have ended.

If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know? A white woman by the name of Viola Liuzzo was murdered at the age of 39 for shuttling civil rights activists back and forth in Alabama. Now, of course, I am not saying to reach out, putting ourselves in dangerous situations such as this, but I am calling us to be brave, look outward vs. inward, and to carry out small deeds which impact others in a positive way.

IMG_8433And remember, it may be as simple as a smile or a kind word that is powerful enough to turn someone’s day around.

Many of you already know that I am working hard on writing a book, a compilation of some of the things I learned from my Mom. Did you know? I started this blog because of my Mama and the many lessons I gained from growing up with her. Here below and on the next post, you will find Part One and Part Two of an excerpt from my book.

LESSON THREE: Are You Down? Help Someone!

This is a lesson I’ve practiced again and again in my life journey. We all have times when we feel discouraged, even hopeless. If we pull up our bootstraps, and help someone, they will be encouraged, and we will feel better too. This works like a charm every time! Try it the next time you feel blue.
The date was August 5, 2005, when my dear friend Jil drowned in an Alabama lake while her family was with her. They were delighting in the final hazy, lazy days of summer when she slipped away. Jil was 40 years old. Jil Cain was one of those humans who inspired others to laugh and love. Jil is still remembered and missed by multitudes of people, even now over 10 years following her passing. Jil left a memorable legacy behind for her family and friends.
My memory bank holds many, many sweet images of Jil, one of which was our participation, along with my girlfriend Kathy, in an Avon 3-Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk together in 2000. With the help of my friend, Jules Furr, I was able to raise over $6,000.00 and I walked in memory of my teaching friend, Debbie Ledford who had died in late 1999 of cancer. Leah and Walker even held a dog-wash to raise funds.  : )  Throughout this weekend in 2000, Jil, Kathy and I were surrounded by survivors at every turn. The 60-mile journey was an incredibly inspiring experience. A stirring of the soul.
An experience that changed our lives forever.
Later in the month of August, 2005, soon after Jil had died, I was driving aimlessly down the road. Our children were at Wednesday night youth group, my husband was working late, and I was falling into the depths of despondency as I grieved the loss of my 40-year-old girlfriend.
Suddenly, I remembered this important lesson that my mother had always told me. Mama had often modeled this lesson as well. I considered what I could do to make a difference in someone’s path, and my car, changing directions, was soon traveling up Dallas Highway towards the Boots Ward Recreational Center.

Is there someone in your path, in my path, who may need a boost in the days ahead?

To Be Continued…

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Choose To Not Be Blue

My Own Little World

Joy Comes In The Morning

Five Ways To Love Well: Part One

Five Ways To Love Well: Part Two

We Are Called To Be Brave

What Is Happening? Write It Down! A Quick Idea For Remembering

img_7403
lots of memories and mementos in these little books

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.

img_7406
a 1996 entry from Leah’s little memory book
img_7407
an 1992 entry from Walker’s little memory book just a month after he landed into our family
img_7405
pictures included in Leah’s little memory book

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.

img_7409
another entry from Walker’s book

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.

img_7408
a Thanksgiving note to our son, Walker, when he was 2 1/2

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.' Abraham Lincoln

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!”  

Love, Mom

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!  

Love, Mom

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!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

The Love Letter Challenge

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

Leave A Notation

Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today

Cheers To A New Year No Resolutions Here

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:

img_4402
A post-Christmas and pre-New Years Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield hike with my long-time friend, Kathy
img_7029
A collage session on December 28, 2016, with my girls who currently live at The Extension and are battling addiction.

img_7031

img_7030

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!

img_0230_2
A Christmas Day 2016 visit with GrandDaddy Page

img_0235

img_7382
Our son, Walker, visiting with his wife, Jessica, from St. Louis, gets a hug from our great-nephew, Noah on December 23, 2016
img_7384
Leigh Andrews takes a minute to read a note from her groom just before becoming Mrs. Michael Fogg on December 30, 2016.
Our daughter, Leah’s sis-in-law, Leigh waits for her wedding
img_7313
A beautiful ceremony for Michael Fogg and Leigh Andrews on December 30, 2016.
img_7220
Christmas Eve with our daughter’s in-laws, The Andrews
img_6992
A trip to the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden with Je, Jan and Cindy and some of Cindy’s family, friends from high school (aka: FFs) on December 11. 2016
img_7273
Our Walker Family Christmas Pizza Party on 12/26/16
img_7381
Story Time with our great-nephews, August (DOB: 3/1/14 to my right) and Noah (DOB: 6/18/14 to my left) on December 23, 2016.
img_7234
Our Six Around The Tree
img_7076
Honoring our sweet Kelsea West, and her groom, Troy with an engagement party on 12/17/16
img_7402
Leah and Scott celebrate with the future Mr. and Mrs. in a photo booth Leah created!

img_7378

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.

img_7157img_7376img_7377img_7375

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.

Related Previous Posts That You May Have Missed:

Fire The Bad Boss Inside

We Can Embrace It

Time Away: A Woman’s Retreat

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

Your Beautiful, Complicated Life Matters

Give and It Will Be Given Unto You

Wrestling and Seeking

The Long and Winding Road

Humble and Kind

Peace Like A River

My Own Little World

It Is Well With My Soul

Gratitude and Grace

Time Away: A Women’s Retreat We All Need Time To Refuel

img_6576

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).

15025639_10206435323275786_2553390224488741366_o

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.

img_6666
Women’s Retreat Breakfast

“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

14991927_10205631493825151_7518539980292157349_n

img_6667
A large group of ducks on Lake Blue Ridge Saturday afternoon.

img_6662img_6660We 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.15095430_10208012373692815_6339721073766000874_n

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.

img_6688

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.

img_6682

img_6684

14991211_10206435546721372_7337972610179466687_o
Sheila’s PJ’s!
img_6692
Party Favor, thanks to Susan, plain and peanut M&Ms!

img_6675img_6686 img_6683 img_6677img_6676img_6681Make 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!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Girls Need Time Together: 3 Illustrations

Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It

The Long and Winding Road

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Honesty With The Truest of Friends

8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

Are You A People Pleaser? Five Tips To Help You Stop

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

img_6652
Scheduled just following the recent election, we all agreed to not discuss our thoughts on the outcome. This agreement left us plenty of time for expressing to each other where our HOPE lies and lots of time for laughter and fellowship.

Pack A Shoebox Full Of Love Plant Seeds Of Compassion

img_6496
Leah (age 12) and Walker (age 8) help organize canned goods shared by our friends Christmas 2000.
img_6494
Leah and Walker surrounded with shoeboxes they pulled together with a little help from their friends.

When I think about when our children were small, in our home, and growing day-by-day, one of my favorite memories is definitely the times we had a bunch of our friends over to our home for a service project. Whether it was a MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Party or an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Party, we always had so much fun and I believe seeds of compassion were planted not only in our two children’s hearts, but in the heart of every child who came. I believe children learn best by example, especially when they are small, impressionable, and growing. These parties helped to make Leah and Walker who they are today, married grown-ups who care about others they may find in their path.

If you still have children  or teens under your roof, or even a grandchild who lives nearby, you may want to take advantage of this opportunity to plant seeds of compassion into the hearts of the ones you are helping to mold.  Simply invite a bunch of kids and break them into small groups of 4-6. Assign a Mom volunteer or two to hang with each group and then rotate the groups through 3-5 stations. The stations might be : 1-story time where you read them a book about this shoebox ministry or another story about the importance of helping others, 2- wrap shoeboxes with gift wrap 3- pack boxes with items, 4-a coloring/craft station, and 5-a snack station.

Or here is an idea! If you are a grandparent, put together a box for a child who is the same age as a grandchild!

Actually, this would be a fantastic project for anyone of any age, because we all know how good it feels when we make a difference in another human’s life!

Click here to watch a quick, cool video about this service project.

img_6426

You should be able to pack a shoebox for between $25-$45, while the impact you will have on a child in need is priceless.

img_6497 img_6501

How To Pack Your Shoebox for a trip around the world:

1. Get a shoebox and decide if you want to pack it for a girl or a boy and choose the age category-2-4, 5-9, OR 10-14.

2. Select a quality “WOW” toy such as a doll, soccer ball with pump, or stuffed animal.  

3. Fill with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.

 4. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift, include a personal note and a photo.  

img_6439
This list will aid you when it is time to drop your gift shoebox between November 14-21, 2016.

5. Donate $7 cash (place in shoebox with your items) to send your gift overseas. Discover the destination of your shoebox through Follow Your Box online (www.samaritanspurse.org/occ)  

6. Take your shoebox gift to a local drop-off location during National Collection Week: November 14-21, 2016.

img_6431

img_2308

img_6475Time is short. The National Collection Week is November 14-21, 2016.

Leah and I will be shopping in the days ahead to put together our two shoeboxes. How about you? Use the hashtag #ipackedashoebox to share your experience.

We Can Get Advice From A Trail Beauty From Ashes

img_6375
a recent gift from my friend, Kathy
14721748_10210605800445663_1222831269210486803_n
The Virginia Creeper Trail on October 15, 2016. Taylor’s friends ride on!
14680578_10210605807525840_913957695061522566_n
Taylor’s Shelter from the storms of life…

There are life lessons to learn at every turn…even from a trail.

One week ago today, Donny and I were in the quaint town of Abingdon, Virginia for another visit. Many, like us, drove from all around to attend the 2nd annual Rails To River, Ride For Taylor, gathered to celebrate a life well lived. As I took the 8.5 mile bike ride from the Abingdon trailhead to Taylor’s shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail, I kept thinking about “beauty from ashes, he brings beauty from ashes.” How does one bring beauty from ashes? Only God, our Creator can do that and on this Saturday, October 15, 2016, we witnessed again and again him doing just that, bringing joy to sorrow, bringing beauty from ashes. I know God’s working, so I smile.

...and provide for those who grieve, to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oils of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3 NIV

As the day continued at Alvaredo Station, we saw examples over and over of this very thing: Nearly 200 hundred gathered… a gorgeous sunny, fall day… a wonderful bluegrass ensemble…loads of family and friends together… an inspirational word from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club President… Taylor’s buddies traveling from far and wide, even from Hawaii to join in the celebration of Taylor Heston Read’s life… “Taylor’s Prayer” being read in unison by all the guests led by his Dad, Paul Read, and many more examples of God bringing beauty from ashes.

14713740_10210605801645693_5412723088154321001_n
Taylor’s Grandfather, David and Taylor’s Mom, Kelly, listen as Paul shares with the group.

Speaking of “Taylor’s Prayer”, his Dad, Paul shared the back story with the folks that gathered to celebrate Taylor. Paul said:

“Whenever we were about to say grace, Taylor would eagerly agree to bless the meal, knowing that I may take entirely too long if I was the one who gave the thanks. So Taylor was known for his short, simple, yet meaningful prayer.

Dear God, Thank you for everything we have and hope everybody's okay. Amen Taylor's Prayer
14705719_10210605802205707_7298455803546925215_n-2
Paul Read, Taylor’s Dad makes remarks before leading us all in Taylor’s Prayer at the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor
14705827_10210605801605692_7843227147348194052_n
Taylor’s shelter is located here along The Holston River and beside The Virginia Creeper Trail.
14671193_10210605805165781_4439657752861541771_n
Hanging out in Taylor’s Shelter!

WE are all looking for good things. We are all seeking joy. Sadly, sometimes, “good things” and “joy” can be very difficult to find. That does not mean they are not there, though. It may be easier to understand this as you read here below the inspiration shared by VCTC President, Wayne Miller at the 2nd annual Ride For Taylor:

There is a story in Genesis 21 about Hagar and how she was lost in the wilderness and suffering from thirst.   The text casually mentions in 21:9 that “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” It does not say that God instantly created that well on the spot, or that the Almighty tapped a little celestial H2O into her canteen. Instead Hagar’s eyes are opened to a water source that has been there under her nose all along.  One real spiritual life task is simply showing up, being open to God’s grace and care wherever we are. What we need is here, but sometimes we need new eyes to see it. Like Lucy and Edmund who walked through an old wardrobe to emerge in C.S. Lewis’ wonderfully, magical land of Narnia, we too are called to walk through life with our eyes open, ready for the impact when a glance at the familiar suddenly points to the holy, to God. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem, “Aurora Leigh”: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.”

The parables and teachings of Jesus feature many natural objects: seeds, rocks, birds, flowers, streams, trees, and I believe Taylor would have added fish to the list. Jesus used such familiar sights to direct attention toward the ordinary, and on the sacred, revealing truth about the invisible God. Jesus picked up something utterly mundane and said, “The Kingdom of God is like this.”

The Virginia Creeper Trail, then, is a laboratory of the spirit, for the hidden Hagar in all of God’s children. In this era of rugged individualists, we are wooed into believing that we ‘make it” in this world through self-generated sweat and ingenuity. We foolishly become our own gods, often unaware of our desperate need to connect with the true God. Though linear in direction and precise in termini, the Creeper holds infinite possibilities for grace around every corner, every milepost, and trestle. Here on this trail my eyes have been opened on more than one occasion to wells I’d never noticed before, wells offering the gift of refreshment from a Source completely outside of self.  

Linger.

Look.

Listen.

Drink deeply of the Trail’s secrets, as Taylor did.

What we need is here.

(Note: original devotion was penned by former Pastor Frank Honeycutt of St. John Lutheran Church, Abingdon, VA)

img_6478

WE will ALWAYS miss Taylor! Forever, until we see him again.  His legacy lives on. Click here for the song You Should Be Here, that makes Taylor’s Aunt Allison think about Taylor every time she hears it being played.

Click here to listen to a new rendition of an old beloved hymn, sung by The BYU Noteworthy Members, 9 “angel-like” women singing out in nature by a river.

Earlier Posts You May Have Missed:

We’ve Got Your Back

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Peace Like A River

Where Is He?

It Is Well With My Soul

A Grace Disguised

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

A few more pictures from our day:

img_6240

img_6238

img_6237

img_6232
Joan and Kelly, friends for 40 years, just before we head for the trail for the 2nd Annual “Rails To River, Ride For Taylor!”

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

img_6195
Today, October 13th  was my Father-In-Law’s 86th birthday and our family joined him for dinner at Daybreak Village Senior Living to celebrate.We took him a new watch to help him keep time, since he recently misplaced his.  Our family has continued to look after him since he joined us in our community on March 14, 2015, and his life and legacy continues.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post called Every Beating Heart Has a Story, and I hope you will click here to read it if you missed it.

14670678_10207750862955210_8648095345615626438_n
Hiking through Northern Italy over Lake Como was an amazing experience! (Sept/October 2016)

As Donny and I recently hiked through Northern Italy above the stunning lakes, Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Como, I found myself thinking about the statement “every beating heart has a story’, as we trudged up steep inclines with our walking sticks. I pondered my own personal story and how I had often felt compelled to share details with one other, or a small group of others who were trustworthy and nonjudgmental. Invariably, those whom I shared with were “beating hearts” I believed God put in my path to potentially be strengthened by my adversity, my weaknesses, and my journey of overcoming struggles. And that is, in part, why I keep returning to The Barbara J. Crafton Extension Center, a residential home for women who are recovering from substance abuse. As we collage together, every other Wednesday morning, we share our stories and we gain courage and strength from each other. We can all leave a legacy of love as we transparently share our struggles, our weakness, our failures, and our victories with others. Now, I am not suggesting you blurt out all of your life issues at every turn, in fact, my long-time friend, Sara, has cautioned me against that! I am saying that we all have an important story, and God can use our story in mighty ways to encourage another human being.

If only we are still enough to hear his voice, his prompting in our spirit. (See Psalm 46:10)

14656362_10207750860875158_7938504891279198456_n
My bucket of collage supplies: “YOUR beautifully, messy, complicated STORY MATTERS”

14721716_10207750860715154_1858682229038203499_n

14716237_10207750780273143_4786526582106826240_n
10/5/16 With artist, Holly Irwin, and my painting, Country Summer, a 2013 Mother’s Day gift from my family.

On October 5th, at our usual collage workshop,we were delighted to have a guest, artist, Holly Irwin, join us to share her story. As the girls worked on their collages, Holly talked with them a bit about her goals and dreams and how life does not always turn out the way we hope it will.

Holly encouraged each one of us by sharing her artist’s statement:

Illustration boards flowing with ink washes and curving black lines ………elegant drawings of women in beautiful dresses and yards of fabric everywhere………..art classes every Saturday morning for years………this is my background, this is how I grew up as the daughter of a fashion illustrator, and it has all culminated in a love affair with figure drawing. The figure and the dress have become my creative voice, a way of expressing powerful emotions using the language of color, line and composition. Sketchbooks everywhere………I unwind by loosely sketching and scribbling, usually in the form of a figure or a dress. Some of my finished paintings find their beginnings there; others start with a sketch from a live model session……always intuitive, based more on emotion than reality.

Texture is important in my work because our lives are layered and textured. I paint with modeling paste, gel mediums, acrylics and oil paint using brushes, spatulas and palette knives. My works on paper are evidence of my love of line drawing, pen and ink.

I search for the girl that lives within me, searching for ways to paint her feelings and emotions. I always come back to her. This is why I paint.

img_5264

Here are some of the collages, using some of Holly’s artwork, that the girls created as. we visited together.

14717038_10207750861035162_741376239516578623_n 14691124_10207750861315169_6534816512073754119_n 14718676_10207750861555175_180437026032868695_n 14666136_10207750861795181_4803845186773874594_n 14563470_10207750863035212_3270074149393893645_n

14720421_10207750862995211_2269835270547777806_nWE NEED EACH OTHER ON THIS JOURNEY CALLED LIFE.

Who can you and I bring encouragement to

by sharing part of our stories today?

14642218_10207750863075213_5517547754717545121_nRelated Posts You May Have Missed:

Caring For Our Parents: 3 Tips To Help Us

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Give And It Will Be Given Unto You

My Own Little World

Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

Speak Life

The Disease Of Addiction Is Real: Hope Is Real, Too

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles: An Interview

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