What To Do This Christmas A Few Really Good Ideas

We had our first winter storm of the year over the weekend, and believe me, this is somewhat of a rarity !!

Much of Georgia is still covered with inches of the white coat of snow.

In short, I should have liked to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet be man enough to know its value. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A decade or so ago, I wrote out the following in calligraphy, printed the message on green paper, and then laminated the copies. (Those of you who know me will be SO surprised with the laminating part, lol)

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

I gave them out to my seven grade school friends, Mary, Jan, Lynn, Debbie, Evelyn, Cindy, and Jane Ellen, who are as close as family to me.

Our FF Group of Eight! Some of us met as early as First Grade at Fernbank Elementary and we all finished Druid Hills High School together in 1976!

When Mary texted me a picture of hers last week, telling me it was one of her favorite things to put out during the holiday season, I decided I wanted to share it with my friends and family here on Pages From Joan. I try to read my copy a few times over the holidays each year.

LET’S BE THE LIGHT IN SOMEONE’S DARK AND DIFFICULT PATH

When I first shared it with my Forever Friends, this message was claimed as anonymous. Since then, I have learned that at least the first part was written by Howard W. Hunter, (1907-1995)

I have highlighted (linked) previous related posts throughout the message.

What To Do This Christmas

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else.  Appreciate others. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it still once again. Christmas is celebration, and there is no celebration that compares tight the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself toward the core of life. Then, only then, is it possible to grasp the significance of that first Christmas—to savor in the inward ear of the sweet music of the angel choir; to envision the star-struck sky, and glimpse, behind the eyelids, the ray of light that fell athwart a darkened path, and changed the world.

What in the above reading will be a priority for you in the days ahead?

I will be emphasizing more laughter, better listening,  and demonstrating my loyalty in word and deed.

Wise Men and Women Still Seek Him! The Word tells us that when we seek God with our whole heart, we will find Him every time.

Other Related Posts You May Have Missed:

52 Things I Love About You and Other Homemade Gifts

Christmas Cards

The “W” In Christmas

Tears To Teddy Bears

Two Trees Symbolize New Traditions

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Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom! Jordan Furr

My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.

You can also read a blog post about Jule’s life story, Part 1 that was written in 2014 by Melony Brown: Courageous Women Overcoming Life’s Tough Challenges.

And you will find Part 2 of this blog post by Melony, here.

Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.' Eleanor Roosevelt

Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.

I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light. Jule Furr

Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.

Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”

It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she  joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!

First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds,  Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.

My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.

Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.

In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!)  Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!

Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction,  soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.

During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.

One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”

Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.

We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past. John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)

I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!

Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.

Jules favorite verse can be found in Romans 5:1-5. Emphasizing both peace and hope, it is definitely worth taking the time to read.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Those who knew Jule were blessed, and those who did not have an opportunity to meet Jule will be inspired by her life and adopt her stories to strengthen their own hearts.

It is now time to celebrate the life of this unique and special daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend to countless gals who will miss this inspiring angel so very much, including me!

Loss is loss, and I will be praying for this precious family during this time of grief. I will also be lifting up the many others I know and love who have lost in 2017.

RIP my dear warrior friend, Jules Furr. See YOU Later!

Related Post You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Run To The Roar

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

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Two Trees Symbolize New Traditions Remembering Our Mothers

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Walker and Jessica’s tree in St. Louis.
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Leah and Scott’s tree in Marietta.

With both of our two grown children, married in 2014, with homes of their own, pulling these two trees out again in 2017 symbolizes to us that we are starting new traditions at our house.

New Traditions…perhaps that is your thought, as well. Finding that “new normal”, whatever that is…This might be the first Christmas since someone you love dearly passed away in recent months, perhaps someone important to you is very ill this holiday season, or your loved one is far away from you this Christmas.

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The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree, those gifts are friends, faith, family and the one you love.” Anonymous 

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Last December, I was mulling around our attic trying to come up with some Christmas decor that I no longer need. I filled up a big box to haul to the M.U.S.T. Ministries Donation Center, hopefully in plenty of time for some folks to find them and use them in their own homes this Christmas. While up there, a mystery pursued. There were 2 cardboard boxes both marked lightly with an ink pen “Christmas Tree”. I knew that our family had a small ceramic Christmas tree when I was growing up and I remember as a little girl plugging it in every year.

Being from a family of six children, I was delighted to have this tree in my home. I had not, however, before this year, taken the time to unbox it since it was placed in my attic with my other Christmas things. My Mama passed on October 24, 2006, and this was the year I would light the tree in our own home! The mystery was that there were two of them. When I had a chance to ask Donny, he started remembering that when his mother was near death in 2010, she kept asking him, “Did you get the Christmas tree?’ He comforted her by telling her that he had gotten it, but he was not completely sure that we had. You see, his Mom lived in South Florida and became very ill in mid-February 2010. Donny, Walker and I had to drive her from here to Marietta along with as many of her things that we could fit in two cars, and we weren’t sure if the tree was there. Many boxes were placed in the attic after her passing on March 6, 2010. This year, the discovery of the Christmas trees was made. The trees are identical, both reminding us of our dear Mothers who gave us life, love, nurturing, laughter, and planted our roots deep. Though the second tree was not from Donny’s childhood, both trees now serve as a symbol of love and strength as we remember our mothers at Christmas and always.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Psalm 1:3

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Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel A Play On Words

'Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen---that stillness becomes a radiance.' Morgan Freeman

It has been some weeks since I have showed up with a new post and I have missed you all! I took a few minutes to link several of my favorite posts here at the end. I hope you will check out some of these you may have missed.

We’ve had a summer filled with fun and musing about my book, which I continue to work on. With the start of a new year, along with a cool, fall season, I plan to post two to three times a week in the days ahead. Thanks for following along and sharing my posts when my message resonates with your heart.

I have to thank my sister, Amelia Kathryn Seder, more often known as Kathy for this play on words that I will be sharing with you today. I am blessed with three sisters and you can read more about them here and here.

Often, we share group texts or emails between the four of us, reminding us of our common faith, our love of family and important updates. We are glad we have each other to enjoy. We give and receive encouragement. It is always a joy to send things back and forth to one another, especially when we cannot be together for one of our coveted Sister Sessions. Each of us has a unique and long lasting love for our beloved Mama, and when we are together, we feel like Mom is right in our midst. We truly miss her every single day, but we, each one, see “her” when we look in the mirror.

STEAL: Sometimes we simply need to steal away from the crowdedness of our daily life, all activities, and be quiet with ourselves. Sometimes it is not our bodies so much, it is the busy activity of our thoughts. (see Luke 5:16 to see Christ’s example of stealing away)

STILL: As believers, many of us will immediately think of one of my all-time favorite verses…“Be Still And Know That He Is God...”, Psalm 46:10. It is often just so very difficult to be still, however, we have to be still to hear. Did you know? Some of the translations of this verse say to “Cease Striving”. What a good reminder for each one of us! And as I am taking a few minutes to be still, I love the promise we find in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

STEEL: After we have stolen away from the noise and chaos of the world to be still, we can breathe better. We will feel more ready, better equipped to steel ourselves for whatever comes our way. It is easy to have a good attitude when everything is going our way or the way we expected things to go.  We know that even in the most dire circumstances, it becomes more about our response to events than the actual happenings in life. Steeling ourselves beforehand is a great way to be prepared. Chuck Swindoll penned a great word about this very thing in a short poem called ATTITUDE.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company …a church …a home.The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past …we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude …I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you …we are in charge of our attitudes.

This poem is the most helpful when we are dealing with difficult situations. Oftentimes, circumstances we don’t expect or wish were different. We cannot control what other people do or say and cannot always change how things turn out in our lives. One thing, we can always rely on, is how we react to what is happening.

How will we choose to start our days?

Steal away, if only for a few minutes. Be Still. Face our day head on, we will go forward, like steel, no matter what our day brings.

Many have been dealing with evacuation and loss in the recent, horrific storms. Our love and prayers go out to each one impacted by these storms and fires that are circling our globe.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Authentic Prayer

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

A Path Littered With Hard Circumstances

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Wrestling And Seeking

Humble And Kind

Peace Like A River

It Is Well With My Soul

Gift From The Sea

Ten Ways To Value A Teen

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

5 Lessons From A Horse

Where Is He?

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Some Significant Serious Fog In My Path What Are Your Roadblocks?

The fog on my path to class.

I encountered some significant, serious fog in my path while traveling to school on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

After my recent week spent in a Write From The Heart writing class at The John C. Campbell Folk School in N.C., I posted a blog about obstacles in our life journey. Click here to read the earlier post called: What Are The Roadblocks In Our Path?

The day following the “tree obstacle”, on Wednesday morning, the fog was incredibly dense. I could only see directly in front of my headlights. I had to pause for a moment on the side of the road to take this shot as my mind considered the traveling obstacle before me.

Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and arriving early enough for Morning Song at 7:45, I slipped into a cold metal folding chair. I was just in time to hear song composer/musician, Dawn Davis ask a question of the sleepy audience:

“I need a volunteer to give me a random phrase. It can be about anything. Casey, can you give me one?”

“Hmmmmm, how about ‘The fog lifted.’? answered Casey, a young lady who was living on campus for 9 weeks as part of the Work Study Program.

At the JCC Folk School, Musician and Composer, Dawn Davis inspired us at Morning Song with FOUR different instruments! Guitar, fiddle, celtic harp and piano.

Dawn’s guitar began to strum as she hummed and began composing a song about the fog. A song, that soon had lyrics that we all sang together.

A song composed and shared by musician, Dawn Davis.

That random phrase resonated with my heart, as I considered the connection between the fog and the obstacle that was in my path just the day before.

“The Fog Lifted.” Perhaps this would be a new motto for my life, a new tagline for me to live each day by. As in,’ this too will pass’, the fog will always lift over time. 

How does one decide to live this way? With confidence that the obstacle  will be removed from my path soon enough, that the fog will lift in due time?

This reminds me of another one of my Mama’s golden nuggets of wisdom. In good times as well as discouraging times, I want to have guarded optimism that all circumstances will work out.

There is no rushing through and beyond the obstacles, in our day, such as trees and fog. Meantime, applying this to our life, I encourage you and I to focus on one of my all time most beloved scriptures:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1; 10

What are the roadblocks in your life and in mine? Are they long-term obstacles? Short-term? Are they there to help us to slow down, to remind us to take our time, to initiate meditation with God?  Perhaps obstacles show up to teach us something about ourselves, such as the fear factor I shared in my roadblocks post.

Whatever the reason for the snags, the obstructions, the complications in our daily journey, let’s begin to look at these as opportunities for growth, rather than a big ‘ole fat interruption!

As we move on through Holy Week, looking ahead to Friday, and then Easter Sunday, I am certain that the disciples and other followers of Christ considered his death on the cross a huge, hurtful hindrance in their path. And then Sunday came! Easter, “the Superbowl” of our shared faith.   Christ rose from the dead just as he had promised!

As you consider the obstacles in your own path, know that they are temporary and continue to keep the faith!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Music Moves Us

6 Life Lessons From The Slopes

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Bridge Across My Sorrows

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His Eye Is On The Sparrow

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

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How To Respond To Travel Stress

We Are Called To Be Brave

8 Traits Of An Authentic, Successful Woman

Authentic Prayer A Continual Conversation

Does it make any difference to pray?

You know, the older I get, the more I realize the massive need I have for prayer in my life journey. It’s been said that getting old isn’t for sissies and it’s not for the faint of heart either!

Did you know? Praying is easier than you might imagine. God is faithful and gracious.

His mercies towards us as His children are brand new with each new day.

I want to follow that age-old verse found in First Thessalonians Chapter Five:

“Rejoice Always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Blaise Pascal, philosopher, 17th century

For me that means to maintain a grateful heart regardless of my circumstances. To carry on a continual conversation with my Creator. It also means I yearn to keep a short list of my wrongdoings as He lovingly convicts me and brings them to my mind and heart. I truly believe that prayer makes a big difference in my personal life journey.

And we are in the middle of the Lent Season where believers choose to say “no” as a gift to God…a way to purify themselves during this penitential season. So it’s a perfect season to ponder the purpose and place of prayer in your life and in mine.

One of the most helpful books I have ever read about this is Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by, Anne Lamott.

I recently ran across an anonymous prayer from the 17th Century.  Transparent and honest prayers such as this are received and valued by God. He is listening. Are we talking to Him? Are we listening out for His still small voice? He wants to hear from us and He covets a personal relationship with you and with me.

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will be someday old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom; it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tails of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person. Some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:33-34

What part does prayer have in your life journey? Did you know? There are many verses that tell us that when we choose to see God, we will find Him every time. I have definitely found this to be true for me…every time. If you and I find we do not feel close to God, Creator, guess who moved?

Let’s get the conversation going!

More favorite books about prayer:

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by, Charles F. Stanley

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by, Tim Keller

Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by, Priscilla Shirer

before AMEN: The Power of a Simple Prayer by, Max Lucado

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Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

What Is It Like To Be Ninety?

Wisdom On Aging

Peace Like A River

It Is Well With My Soul

No Expiration

Wrestling And Seeking

Thank God He Has A Forgetful Nature

No One Visits The Mother Of A Drug Addict

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fertile Prayers

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

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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

His Eye Is On The Sparrow And I Know He Watches Over Me

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A bird’s nest in an old beach hat.

IMG_0058I believe it is fair to say we are in the midst of a tumultuous, uncertain season across our globe.

“It can be too sad here. We often lose our way. It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness—having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life—it’s easier to navigate around the sadness that you inevitably stumble across. Life holds beauty, magic and anguish. Sometimes sorrow is unavoidable, even when your kids are little, when the marvels of your children and your parental amazement, are all the meaning you need to sustain you, or when you have landed the job and salary for which you’ve always longed, or the mate. And then the phone rings, the mail comes, or you turn on the TV.” Anne Lamott, from Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope, and Repair 

Political gridlock, evil terrorists, human sex trafficking, and a wide use of illicit drugs are just some of what we are experiencing in this grim avalanche surrounding us today. Easter: The Season of Hope is upon us. Did you know? Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways across the world. Click here to read about some of them. With all of these hopeless things going on, Easter brings Good News for those who believe.IMG_8283

Yesterday was the first day of spring on our calendar. What are some of your favorite things about spring? Springtime is associated with the ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Though the pollen bothers many, the vivid blooms and flowering trees are  truly something to behold!Dollarphotoclub_83234578

With many world-wide challenges, some may be asking “Where Is God?” I had something happen in the past week that assured me that his eye is on us.

Did you know? There is a set of verses in the Gospel of Matthew where we are taught what to do with worry. It is human nature to worry some, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a place to go with our worries?

One place to go is found in Matthew 6:25-34. Today, we will look at two of these verses, v. 26-27, and apply them to what happened here in our home.

Have you ever noticed a bird’s nest somewhere on your property? Mama used to say that when a bird builds a nest near your home that this is a sign that you have the gift of hospitality! <smile>

We have a wreath right outside our kitchen entrance that is being used as a nest spot for a bird right now. It is a bit camouflaged …can you see it here below?

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IMG_9328So my brief story begins with a homemade wreath that our daughter, Leah made for an upcoming bridal kitchen shower for a dear friend. Leah lovingly used burlap and a big white G for the wreath. Click here to read a previous post that will show you how to make this wreath. In preparation for the Sunday party, my co-host, Cyndi and I began decorating a couple of days ahead. The wreath was hung on our front door on Friday, two days before the festivities would start. On Sunday morning, as I was checking on everything, I noticed that an important project had begun in the burlap wreath: a bird’s nest! In just two days, LOOK at what progress this industrious bird had made!

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Our June bride, Savannah must have the gift of hospitality!
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L to R: sis to bride, Ashley, June bride, Savannah, and Mom, Sandy

Some of The Gillam Gang hold beautiful, delicious cookies Baked With Heart by my friend, Louise who has her own business in Virginia. Check out her Facebook Page here. Louise can make the most creative cookies I have ever seen and will carefully pack and ship to your home for a very reasonable price.12802835_612486148906876_3944479358413601262_n

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I keep this in my powder room to remind me that if his eye is on the sparrow, then he is surely watching over us, as well.
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Psalm 113:3

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Light In Your Eyes (You Gotta Talk To The One Who Made You), Sheryl Crow

How Do We Describe Grief?

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This picture was taken on a hike with Taylor’s friends.

Sorrows cannot all be explained away…In a life truly lived, grief and loss accumulate like possessions.” Stephan Kanfer

How do we describe grief? How do we express how much we miss someone’s presence in our days? Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. The reasons for grief are many, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the letting go of a long-held dream. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life.

I can easily recall after my Mama passed on in October, 2006, there was a physical aching in my heart, a pain I had never experienced before. I knew then a little more about what grief was.  When our much-loved nephew, Brad died in April, 2009, our family learned more about this process of grief. We held onto each other a little tighter after that. My Daddy went on to join Mama in November, 2013, so I have had a glimpse of what grief is about. Like you, I have lost friends who have meant the world to me. Some of you have lost a beloved spouse. Grief is something we would definitely never invite in, but something we are all called to experience at one time or another.

Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” Frederick Buechner

Unlike many of you who are reading this, I have never walked through the loss of a child.  I can only imagine that losing one of our children would be like losing a limb, or worse. That is where our dear friends, The Reads are today, on March 7, 2016. They are looking at the calendar, recognizing this date and marking the first anniversary of their son, Taylor’s passing at the young age of 23.

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Taylor (left) with his buddy, Josh, since 2nd grade loved boarding!

Taylor Heston Read will always be remembered as a kind, strong, athletic, funny, loving young man, and he will be missed forever. Taylor’s parents, five grandparents, friends and relatives, including his sister, Megan know they will see him again, as they look ahead with godly confidence of this truth. I miss Taylor, too! You see, Taylor’s parents and I first met when we were just starting college at Tennessee Tech University back in the 70’s. Kelly and I bonded quickly as ADPis and went on to stand alongside each other in our 1982 weddings, vacationed together and yes, raised our children together.

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So thankful for these friends! Our Wedding Day on 10/2/1982.
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Daddy, Paul has floor play with Taylor and Meg.
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Baseball! Taylor with his cousins!

Taylor was a precious little brunette baby boy. A tall young man, I’ll always remember Taylor as a gentle giant, with a comforting smile. His many friends, both guys and girls, describe Taylor as a caring soul, as “the one who looked after me,” … a bridge over troubled water.

The remembrance of Taylor will forever kindle fondness, smiles, and pure love by so many of us still here on earth…

In response to Taylor’s passing, his family soon began to consider how they wanted to mark the memory of his life here while having a positive impact on their beautiful community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Before long, it became apparent that a shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail would be designed by Taylor’s gifted sister, Megan. The construction began soon after.

~~~~~~~A Labor Of Love~~~~~~~

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The first annual “Rails To River” bike ride fund-raiser for Taylor was scheduled for October 3, 2015. When the day arrived, all plans were in place…the t-shirts had been sorted, the BBQ lunch was simmering, and the weather in Virginia was trying to put a damper on the plans. Even a cold and rainy forecast didn’t stop the fifteen plus riders on the trail who made the 8 mile trek to Taylor’s Shelter for the very first time. A huge crowd turned out to support this family and the trail. The stormy weather couldn’t block the sun from popping out just in time for the dedication of this creative retreat, this refuge from the storms of life for generations to come.

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Donny and Paul…Taylor’s Shelter From The Storm
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The shelter sits beside the Holston River.

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Kelly and Meg are bundled up for the ride.
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Lisa was such a big help in organizing the ride!
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T-SHIRTS!
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The Pages and The Reads are ready to roll!
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Donny with Taylor’s sign.
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The Ride!
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WE LOVE THE TRAIL!

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What a group!
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Kelly, love her so much!
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Taylor’s Aunt Allison and cousin, Katherine weather the storm.
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Zach traveled from CA to be a part of the ride for Taylor!
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Thumbs Up with Zach and Josh upon their arrival to Taylor’s Shelter!
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Paul shares with the crowd at the dedication.

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Great Friends Gather, while Mike and Greg photobomb!
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A great spot for Taylor’s Shelter!
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Becky and Leslie take time out at Taylor’s Shelter.
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This awesome place is right on the trail!
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After many meetings and a lot of effort, Kelly and Lisa give the day a “thumbs up”!
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Kelly and Joan at Taylor’s Shelter.
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Joan and Susan gather flowers from the BBQ lunch.

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Donny and I cannot wait for our next bike ride to Taylor’s Shelter over Easter Weekend, 2016!

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This portrait, a gift from Taylor’s friends is lovingly hung in The Read Home.
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Friend, Kelsey, takes time out in Taylor’s Shelter.

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How do we describe grief? I do not know, but I do know how to describe a response to grief. In one word, The Read Family has chosen to respond with HOPE. Rest In Peace, Taylor Heston Read, a life well lived.

In addition to knowing we will all go through grief, we also know that our time to die will come, as well.  I read a great article published this past week, “On the Day I Die”, by, John Pavlovitz. Click here to read it.

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Kelly and Meg take time out in Taylor’s Shelter wrapped in a prayer shawl, a gift from precious friend, Ellen.

The “W” in Christmas A Story To Remember

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Two of God’s greatest gifts: Family and The Christ Child, King of Kings

Having been a teacher for nearly ten years, I recall with fondness groups of children filing into a packed cafeteria and carefully stepping up onto risers before breaking out into “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”. Their smiles, their laughter, and their voices are all engraved on my heart forever. Following is a story I have heard throughout the years and I believe it bears repeating:

The “W” in Christmas

IMG_0703Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations – extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress
rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as “Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment – songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas
Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy
mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in
the front row center stage – held up large letters, one by one, to spell
out the title of the song. As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,”
a child would hold up the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and
on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete
message, “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her;
a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down –
totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W”. The audience of 1st
through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had
no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding
her “W”.

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter
continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A
hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant,
we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the
holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose
for our festivities.

For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and
clear: “CHRISTWAS LOVE”

And, I believe, He still is.

(COPIED)

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The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith. 

Billy Graham

(November 7, 1918-           )