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

Brooke Ellison

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

Special Needs?

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

Posts You May Have Missed:

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-           )

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, now married with homes of their own, pulling these two trees out again in 2015 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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5 Steps to A MUST Summer Lunch Party Each One Reach One

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MDJ article dated June 10, 2003. Longtime and Much Loved Volunteer, Carol Hunt is pictured below the little girl munching on a MUST lunch.

Getting everybody to practice on time! What time is the game on Thursday? PROM and all the details that go with Prom Night. College Decisions. Spring Plays. Not to mention the usual things like meals and laundry. I know if you are reading this and still have kids in your home, your days are full beyond belief. I’ve often heard MAY compared with DECEMBER as far as how busy and scheduled our lives become in May, just like the holiday season.

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I don’t know a kid around who doesn’t miss seeing his/her friends once school is out for the summer! If you do still have kids in your home between the age of six and highschool, I hope you will consider organizing and carrying out a MUST Summer Lunch Party. I will show you how our family did this in five easy steps and you can do it, too. Children  Elementary-High School age can even do most of the planning with a little help here and there.
IMG_2539Did you know that MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Program celebrates its 20th year in 2015? This year MUST expects to deliver between 6,000 and 7,000 lunches, across eight counties, each day of the school break. These lunches go to children who are on free or reduced lunch programs, and without this provision they would go hungry. MUST is looking for volunteers, across Metro Atlanta, who are able to give some time and resources to this worthy cause in the weeks and months ahead. Remember, they deliver to eight surrounding Metro Atlanta Counties. If you feel called to help out, please call 770-427-9862 or send an email to

summerlunch@mustministries.org.

N/A May 2016——–THIS COMING SATURDAY, MUST will be collecting the following non-perishable items along with new or gently used books from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at The MUST Marketplace at the backside of the building at 1407 Cobb Parkway North, Marietta:

**********PEANUT BUTTER (plastic jars only, please)**********JELLY**********

**********CHIPS/GRANOLA BARS(individually wrapped please)**********juice boxes**********

**********lunch bags**********sandwich sized zip locks 

N/A May 2016—Watch for ads about this donation drive on Fox Five all week!

The Marketplace is a fabulous Thrift Shop provided for anyone in the community by MUST. The prices are affordable and you never know what you might find there. YOU can check out the Marketplace when you drop your donations this coming Saturday, May 2, 2015.

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The poor you will always have with you…”

Jesus in Matthew 26:11

One of the most important things I believe we can teach our children is to have compassion and caring for those less fortunate than they are AND with that empathy and kindness, to then compel them to “do something” to help, no matter how small their act may seem. Back in the summers of 2002 and 2003, Leah, Walker and I hosted MUST Summer Lunch Parties a few times each summer and I am hoping if you are reading this, you may want to combine efforts with another Mom friend and host a MUST Summer Lunch Party with children who are still in your nest.

Taking Donations and hosting a Summer Lunch Party are opportunities for what I like to call “teachable moments.” A time to intentionally seize the moment by doing something fun and engaging, using our actions more than our words, and teaching our children important character traits that will help them in life.

Step One: Make a list of families that still have kids in the home. Consider school friends, church friends, cousins, and neighbors. Invite a few moms to join you in the chaperone role. (All parents do not need to stay for party-depending on the ages in attendance, recommended ratio is approximately 6-8 kids to one adult)

Step Two: Look at your family summer calendar and come up with one or more dates to host a party. Type out a notice to mail (or email) to the friends on your list.

Step Three: Meet with your volunteer Moms, your kids and their kids to plan out your party… the timeframe, snacks for the kids who come, where to have centers/stations and other details. If no swimming pool is available, plan story times ( for younger children) and games. Teens just love a chance to hang out together and catch up. Be Creative and Imaginative, catering your plan to the ages who will be in attendance! Preschoolers can help color/decorate the bags. Elementary and High School Ages can do ANYTHING, including leading groups, making sandwiches and more. Especially for younger children, set up different stations/centers where the children could rotate every 20 min. or so.

IMG_2747Step Four: Decide how many lunches your group will make. Communicate with MUST and keep them updated on your plans to provide some lunches and to find out where to take them. Call 770-427-9862 or email summerlunch@mustministries.org. Sometimes we made 50 and other times we made 100, but it depends on the size of your party, and ANY number of lunches will make a difference! Once you know who is coming, divide out the supplies you need for each lunch and email/text an assignment to each family who is coming. Use Facebook messaging for ease.

YOU will need: As many new or gently used books you can collect, hand sanitizer,  table knives, peanut butter (plastic jars only), jelly, bread, chips (individually packaged), fruit, granola bars (individually packaged), juice boxes, zip locks, lunch bags, crayons or markers for decorating bags, cardboard boxes for transporting the lunches, and frig space for storing the lunches overnight. A long dining/folding table or ping-pong table (cover with clean beach towels) will be perfect for making the sandwiches.

Step Five: Party Day! Be Flexible! Smile to yourself knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of hungry children AND helping to plant seeds of compassion and caring, not only in your own kids, but also in the hearts of their friends! Start with an introduction to explain the purpose for the party, pray for the children who will be receiving the lunches your group prepares, and remind the children that all lunches have to be packed before free time!

P.S. MUST Ministries can also use help with transporting and delivering the lunches. Our son, Walker and daughter, Leah were able to ride with the van a few times and seeing these kids for themselves was another great experience in and of itself. Contact Must Ministries to see how you and your family can get involved :  770-426-7667

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notes from families who received lunches from us back in 2002-2003
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AliMae spoke at the MUST Fundraiser this past Saturday Night. She is now 15, however she shared that after her grandmother passed, her father spiraled down and she and her brother were left hungry many, many days. That is until the MUST lunch van showed up and fed them! Since then, AliMae has been adopted into a more stable home and is doing well.
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Little girl proudly holding her lunch bag! “You leave us with a smile in our face.”
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Happy Faces as they receive something good to eat for lunch!
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Joyful little girl takes her lunch with a grateful heart.
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It’s LUNCHTIME for these three precious ones!

As you finish reading this blog post, you may be feeling a tug at your heart to do something! If so, DO IT! If you are too busy today, (it is almost MAY) make a  notation on your calendar in the coming weeks to reread this post.  In addition, if you do not live in the Metro Atlanta area, I hope you will respond by researching folks in need in your community and get your family involved in lending a hand.

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Walker and I,  with our friend and neighbor, Shannon as we give out Summer Lunches in the projects in Marietta. (2002)

Every bit that we do will make a difference. Are there children’s books tucked away in a cabinet or attic space? Let’s get those out and donate them to children who would love to have a book to call their own! These lunch parties can happen at workplaces, churches, anywhere there is a little space and a group to help pull some lunches together. Even young adults or folks my age can pull together a party!  MUST needs lots of sandwiches! Let’s make our 2015 summer extra special by reaching out to those in need.

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the postcard I mailed to families who joined us for the parties

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Meet Me In St. Louis

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“I see trees of green, red roses, too. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” ( a weeping willow tree in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri)

Easter 2015 was extra special for my husband and me as we flew to St. Louis, Missouri, to meet up with our son and his wife. As we enjoyed a short, relaxing flight, I read through a book our daughter, Leah gave me as a Christmas gift, making plans to continue this blog: pages from joan, while pausing here and there to ponder a book I have just recently started writing.

There is something about the window seat of an airplane, looking over the sea of clouds that gets my heart reminiscing, the lyrics of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”, going through my mind.

IMG_2461Having only lived in St. Louis for six months, Jessica and Walker have learned their new city well and as usual, were wonderful hosts for our visit. Before our children moved here, we had never visited St. Louis. We have always wanted to visit, hearing about this place from many good friends that grew up here, and now, it has become one of our favorite U.S. cities!

Did you know there are seven things you must do in St. Louis in April 2015:

(1) Get Your Indie Fix-a slew of shows from some much loved, arty musicians like OK Go, Sufjan Stevens, Sleater Kinney, and British pop-rock band The Kooks. (2) Support the SL art community at The Makers Ball on April 18. (3) Get the Giggles at Touhill for the Chicago-based improv group The Second City April 22-25. (4) Sample S.L. at the “A Tasteful Affair 27” on April 19 which benefits Food Outreach, a Downtown nonprofit providing nutrition services to St. Louisans living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. (5) GET active! Join the S.L. Marathon on April 12, running past some of the city’s best-loved locations, the Gateway Arch, Forest Park, Citygarden, and Anheuser-Busch brewery. (6) Catch the Spring Fashions on April 9 and April 26 at two runway shows featuring fashions from top stores. (7) GO GREEN! Join more than 35,000 members of the local community as they celebrate our amazing planet at the S.L. Earth Day Festival on April 26 at Forest Park. (note: ideas taken from ALIVE St. Louis, April 2015 issue)

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Walker and Jessica take a rest from paddling the ‘rents all around Forest Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

On this visit, we stayed at nearby Chase Park Plaza, but next time, we will be staying at their new home, built in 1929, on Teasdale Avenue. It was so exciting to walk through the home that will be theirs come Mother’s Day Weekend 2015!

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The Page Home on Teasdale Avenue, St. Louis, MO
[pullquote]Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.[/pullquote]

We enjoyed dinner Friday night at the kids’ favorite BBQ spot: The Shaved Duck. Oh my, this was truly the most delectable BBQ we have had in some time!

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The Shaved Duck

Saturday, we awakened to a blue sky day and got ourselves started with a walk in the famous green space of the city: Forest Park, 1,371 acres of water, land and cultural museums, located in the western part of St. Louis, Missouri.

After walking for awhile, we hopped into a paddle boat and tooled around seeing the park from an entirely different

                      perspective.

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Leah and Walker with a bunny, Easter 1995

Perspective is a funny word to me as it has a lot to do with “choice”. Waking up on the Monday after visiting our married children, I am reminded of how fast time is traveling by. I remember once again, that as of June 21, 2014, both of our

children are now married. When I scrolled through Facebook yesterday, I saw so many cute babies and young families at annual Easter Egg Hunts. This perusing caused memories of our own two, on Easter Sundays gone by, to come flooding back. During this current season of my life, I am making a conscientious choice about my perspective. Synonyms for perspective include outlook, view, viewpoint, position, stance, attitude, frame of reference, approach, and interpretation. My husband and I are parents-in-law to two amazing kids, we are living in a home where the extra bedrooms are empty for the most part, and while we remain very close to Leah, Walker, and their spouses, they have now become their own “family unit”, just as it should be.

If I sound “sad” here in these side remarks about perspective, I really am not.

However, the passage of time does give one much to remember and to be grateful for.

Now, back to our 2015 St. Louis Easter Weekend, the Walker and Jess cooked for us Saturday night : yummy caprese paninis, home fries, and a bottle of red.  Following dinner , we hung out with their cat, Louis while playing Canasta. Dad and I finally ended up with a winning score, but with only 3 rounds played, this game is TBC. (to be continued!)IMG_2515

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Donny, Walker and Jessica on the steps of Memorial Presbyterian Church, Easter Sunday.

WE completed our Easter Visit in St. Louis in the most wonderful way. We worshipped together in the church Walker and Jess recently joined, Memorial Presbyterian Church on South Skinker Boulevard.

Until next time, SEE YA LATER, Walker, Jess and Lou!

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Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.”

Barbara Bush

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 What is your perspective regarding the season of your life today?