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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We CAN Embrace It Let's Start Today

Is December 2015 different for you from holiday seasons now past? Does your path feel unfamiliar compared to this time last year?  If so, can you and I intentionally embrace the changes that are happening right in our midst? IMG_6313

As my next door neighbor, Michelle and I were chatting this morning, we talked about that very thing…aging parents with illnesses that may prevent them from traveling, children that are now married with homes of their own.

Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” Pearl S. Buck 

Illnesses and surgeries that come into play during the holidays make for changes, too.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.” Charles M. Schulz~Charlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom 

I am not referring to your first Christmas after a precious loved one has gone ahead of you…

…that kind of change is in a league of its own, and that is not what this is about, and if you know someone in these life circumstances, read this recent post about bereavement.

If things are not as they usually are…can we choose to embrace it, enjoying the moments, building new traditions, instead of allowing ourselves to get down?

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

That is exactly what my friend, Michelle told me they were doing as they noticed some changes in what they usually expect during the weeks leading into Christmas. Their family is making an intentional choice to embrace these changes. They are seizing the changes in this season as an opportunity to spend more time with their family of four with a festive New Year’s getaway. Good for them!

Later in the day, I traveled to Atlanta to visit my friend, Mary who is making a recovery from knee surgery. As I turned onto Piedmont off of North Avenue, just before making a right onto Ponce de Leon, I noticed some blue lights in front of a church, to my left. As most would be, I was curiously looking in that direction to see what was happening. Right away, it was clear that the policewoman was just doing her job, by shooing away a homeless man who had been sleeping on the front porch of the church. While she didn’t arrest him, she simply watched him walking away slowly…what his next destination would be was anyone’s guess. I know there will always be poor among us, even still, my heart was saddened by this scene on Piedmont.

As I continued the drive to Mary’s, a glance to my right brought me a smile as I passed Krispy Kreme Doughnuts with the “HOT” sign on. You see, Mary remained in our much-loved hometown of Decatur, along with her husband, raising their two boys in the same schools where our five-decade long friendship had its start. Krispy Kreme was a place we visited often! Coming to Mary’s home is such a treat.

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller

It is truly like traveling down Memory Lane every time. Knowing each other since first grade at Fernbank Elementary, our visits are always so special.

Yes, life might be a bit different this Christmas…but as we consider the reality of life for this homeless gentleman in the above story,  I think it will do us all a ton of good if we recognize the good in our 2015 Season and make an intentional choice to EMBRACE IT!

christmas still life

May your holidays be bright!

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-           )

What Memories Are On Your Tree? Don't You Love Each and Every Ornament?

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This whimsical Santa was a gift from our long-time friends, The Carters in 2000.

We’ve been admiring this beautiful Frazier Fir, we recently bought from Calvary Children’s Home, with its shining white IMG_7758lights, for a week now. Though it is already festive, I guess it is time to place some ornaments on its boughs. As we complete the decorating of our 2015 tree, as always, memories come flooding in, one-by-one as we hang particular ornaments on the Christmas tree. What memories are on your tree? I feel sure you have some tender, heart-felt ones of your own and I hope this post will encourage you to take some time to reflect on them as you deck the halls in your home.

Some may be breakable, while some may be made of paper. Some may be handmade, while some were found at Hallmark.  Many were picked up and personalized year after year and are now on our grown children’s trees. All represent precious moments and memories that will stay with us forever.

I’ve selected a few to share with you.

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In 1982, Grant Lovelace. a fifth grader in my class in 1982, gave this PAGE ball to me. I can still see his excited face as he watched me unwrap his gift engraved with my new last name…a name change from just a couple of months earlier! Walker and Jess now hang this keepsake on their tree.IMG_7794

This one shows Donny and Leah attending a Preschool Angel Breakfast when she was just four. Now she is twenty-seven and married.

I’ve always loved putting this slipper on our tree, a gift from a teacher friend of mine at Avondale Elementary. Carol Barrett and I worked together several years before I became pregnant with Leah and moved too far away to continue working with the many friends I had made at Avondale! The slipper celebrates our first-born in 1988. Now the slipper adorns Leah and Scott’s tree.

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IMG_7800This tree ornament was a gift from our friends up the street, the B’s, in 1991 when our family was a family of three. Even though I was due in February of the next year, I was great with child when we received this one.

Ornaments are a great way to remember travel adventures from our past.

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Remember Grover!?! Poor Grover got his nose bitten off by our golden retriever, Riley, and the children laughed and laughed. Their giggles will echo in my heart forever.

Some ornaments, like these we made when our children were small will remind us of how much our loved ones have grown.

Check out an earlier post with great ideas of homemade gifts. Click here.

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IMG_7793 IMG_7792 IMG_7790 IMG_7789Baby Jesus in the manger was one of the countless handmade ornaments the children made at either church or school as they grew.

And the cool camping tent was a gift from our dear friend, Sara to help us recall the fun time we had camping out on their land that was adjacent to Kennesaw Mountain.

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IMG_7803December of 2005, my friend, John gave me this in honor and memory of his wife and my dear friend, Jil who passed away suddenly on August 5, 2005 at the age of 40. She loved collecting these stunning Swarovski keepsake Christmas ornaments. You can read more about Jil by clicking here.

When our children were married in 2014, I took time to separate out ornaments from our collection to enable them to begin to build their own family collection.

Now that both Leah and Walker have homes of their own, a good number of our keepsake ornaments have been passed onto them to enjoy for the years ahead. We hope the stories will continue to be told for generations to come.

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

Click on the following links to read some 2014 Christmas posts which you may have missed:

Christmas Cards

Two Christmas Trees: Remembering Our Mothers

The “W” In Christmas

What memories are on your tree?

The Calvary Kids Committed To Making A Difference For 50 Years in 2016

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IMG_7735 IMG_7733Many of you already know the story of how my mother was adopted from an orphanage at age three, on a Sunday afternoon, by a Pastor, his wife and three older brothers. Mama’s life was forever changed for the better on that day. In case you missed it, you can read more about her story in an earlier post entitled: Adoption: The Answer To So Many Questions.

This past Sunday afternoon when Donny and I were searching for our Christmas tree at Calvary Children’s Home annual lot, I was moved by the account of another 3-year-old little girl who lived her entire childhood at Calvary and I wanted to share the story with you.

The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There's a kind of glory to them when they're all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” Andy Rooney (1919-2011)

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But first, if you live near Powder Springs, Georgia, and you have not yet picked out your special tree, consider stopping in at this lot where 100% of the money goes to fund the following activities for the Calvary kids:

  • Youth group expenses
  • A winter ski trip 
  • A summer youth conference in Gatlinburg
  • The hosting of an every other week event where the Calvary kids invite their friends to participate. These events really help alleviate any stigma associated with living in a children’s home that the Calvary kids may feel
  • Last year, the tree lot was so successful that Calvary was even able to fund the final semester of one of their kid’s college tuition!

IMG_7758And that is an ideal lead into the moving story I learned about while choosing our tree last Sunday. That Calvary “kid’s” name is Jennifer McMurray and she came to live at Calvary Children’s Home  when she was three years old and spent her entire childhood as part of the Calvary Family. Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling in Mary 2015, and was married to her sweetheart on August 8, 2015. From the words of Calvary Campus Director, M. Brian Busby,

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Calvary Campus Director with The Newlyweds!

“I had the honor of walking this precious girl down that aisle, and she is now Jennifer Lane. As a young woman, Jenny represents all the young children who need someone to care enough to step into their life to love and guide them. As she stood there with her new husband, I felt great joy because she was…Godly, graduated, grateful, and now grown! Jenny is currently working for the Trinity Rescue Mission in Jacksonville, Florida, a shelter that cares for women who are homeless. This Christmas tree lot has opened doors for our ministry that would be closed otherwise. Our customers are the very heart of those opportunities being made possible. For all of the young people who are blessed by your friendship, I sincerely thank you.”

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Mrs. Jennifer Lane

Here’s a word from Jennifer included in a letter distributed at the tree lot:

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall. Larry Wilde (1928- )

“Please let me take a minute to tell you my story. When I was a child, I was not wanted by my parents. However, God wanted me and He gave me a new home. When you are feeling alone and rejected, God will always want you. You just have to be willing to let Him into your life. As a child, my parents did not protect me, but God always watched over me. My parents did not show the love for their children, but God loved me and showed me that His love for me is unconditional.” You can read the rest of Jenny’s letter when you pick out your tree at the 10th Annual Calvary Kids Christmas Tree Sale!

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Whatever stage of “Christmas,

Hanakkah, Kwanza, Holiday Decor”

you may be in,

Don’t get your Tinsel in a Tangle!

Related Posts YOU may have missed:

Children Are Wet Cement

Let’s Listen To Children

10 Ways To Value A Teen

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Children have that innocent charm that makes days shorter and life fulfilled. Anonymous
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A creative gift for a loved one: honor them with a donation to Calvary Children’s Home!

Christmas Cards

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A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory,
like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
Garrison Keillor 

It’s time to put away our Christmas ornaments and Santa Clauses until next year. It’s time to stack up the many loving and cheerful cards we received from our friends and family in the past four weeks. Donny and I were able to go through former Georgia Governor Roy and Marie Barnes home during the 2014 Marietta Pilgrimage in early December, and I learned two tips related to Christmas cards that I wanted to pass onto you.IMG_0909

-Take advantage of the after Christmas sales and pick up some wide, sturdy, and festive ribbon. As you can see here, the ribbon hangs well from a door frame to clip or pin the cards to. with small decorative clips or simple straight pins. The cards are easy to see and on display throughout the holiday season.

I bought these cute Santa clips at an Intown Ace in Atlanta, that has the most wonderful gift section and the tiny green clips, as well as the large rings were purchased at Michaels.

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-Take a few minutes to punch a hole in each card and place the cards together in a wide ring. These can be displayed on your coffee table year after year as part of your Christmas decor.

When you stop opening presents and listen, love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas”Author unknown

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Our great-niece, baby Noelle, was born on September 10, 2014. She spent her first Christmas with friends and family in Atlanta, Georgia, meeting many of them for the first time since she lives across the country with her parents, Katie and Adam in Colorado.

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When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things give off the greatest glow of happiness.”Bob Hope

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Here are our cards from 2012 bound together and ready for display next year!

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