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!

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God Bless America And Beyond May Angels Fly Beside You, May Heaven Steel Your Hearts

As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!

Tailgating in Atlanta on a beautiful Saturday, December 2, 2017 with two of my favorite girls. My daughter, Leah in the middle and Jane Ellen, my long-time high school friend.

As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.

The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.

During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.

So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.

As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.

Our young friend, Sam, learns early about the sacrifices of our military.

Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.

Our young friend, Will shows his respect at a military grave site.

Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.

God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts. 

In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?

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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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35 Rules For Women, Young And Old Especially For Daughters

Rules For Women Young and Old,

Especially for Daughters.

My precious daughter, Leah, with her loving Aunt Laura Lea, Lake Blue Ridge

1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.

It sets you up for a great day ahead.

2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.

3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.

One of my sisters, Kathy and me

4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.

Kelly and Megan, Taylor’s Shelter, October 2015

5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.

My sister, Mary Ann, serving at a clinic with my beautiful niece, Amy

6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.

Peg and Marilyn, October 2017, Abingdon, VA for Taylor’s Ride

7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.

College Reunion # 39 Marietta, Georgia 2017

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.

9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.

10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is.   Don’t confuse these.

Pam and Wanda, May 2017 Lake Blue Ridge Women’s Retreat

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.

Robin, Rhonda, and Susan, The Dinner Team at our May 2017 Women’s Retreat

12. Never walk through an alley.

13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.

Aimee Copeland  founder of Aimee Copeland Foundation, empowering people of all abilities to lead fulfilling and joyful lives

14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.

A Hike on our Women’s Retreat May 2017

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.

16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.

17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….

Leah doing one of her favorite things, surfing!

18. Your body, your rules. Always.

 Paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge

19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.

Hiking Mt. LeConte with girlfriends in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, June 2016

20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!

21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

My brave and beautiful niece, Pamela, Mommy to two. Here with son, Roman.

22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)

My beautiful niece, Emily with her niece, Noelle

23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.

24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.

Artist, Holly Irwin visits The Women’s Extension with me 2017

25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.

My Girls! Leah and Jessica, Summer 2016

26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.

27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.

28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.

29. Question everything except your own intuition.

Sunrise Cruise GG, 2016 Lake Blue Ridge

30. You have enough. You are enough.

Cocktails and Carols with David Brewer, December 2016

31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.

32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.

There Is Always A Road You Can Take Back Home

33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.

My Mama, my best friend, (1927-2006)

34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

35. No one will ever love you more than I do

                          Copied, Author Unknown

*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with the daughters, granddaughters, nieces and women you love.

Hurting Hearts Painful Paths Challenges That Come With Depression And Suicide

Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated?  Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.

Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.

However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.

“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.” Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life

Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.

My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)

Questions are left unanswered. This reminds me of a song from one of my all-time favorite movies, “A Walk To Remember” starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. Click here to listen to Someday We’ll Know.

Yes, we must increase our dialogue, open our hearts to more sharing regarding depression, mental illness of all kinds, and death by suicide.

Let’s Start Now.

Click here to watch this five-minute video with my friend, Kristen sharing her heart with us regarding her mother’s death by suicide.

After Kristen’s Mom’s passing on November 5, 2011, a spark grew inside of Kristen’s heart to start a non-profit called Kids Boost. 

This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.

Here is how it works!

  1.  Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2.  Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.

3.  Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.

Kristen, founder of the Non-Profit Kids Boost is going places with her enthusiasm and great ideas!

4.  Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.

5.  Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.

Let’s please start now talking more openly about the pain and truth of mental illness….

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

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Standing At The Crossroads Trying To Read The Signs

Your Messy, Complicated, Beautiful Life Story Matters

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

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It Is Well With My Soul: So Hope Lives On

No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict

A Grace Disguised

Wrestling And Seeking

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Five Ways To Love Well

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Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years.  You can listen to the song here.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.

'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.' Unknown

Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.

“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”

While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.' Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow.  By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.' Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017

I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will. 

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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Run To The Roar Bold Like A Lion

It was a Saturday morning and I stopped by my friend, Cathie’s home to pick up her old magazines for my collage workshops I hold at our local Barbara J. Crafton Women’s Extension Recovery Center. Over tea, I shared with my friend and her collegiate daughter, Aubrey, a book that had been super meaningful to my life in the last 2 years. A book I have picked up again and again. Daring Greatly, by, Brene Brown. As we talked about that book, Aubrey chimed in about a book she was currently reading: Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain Finding Incredible Power, by Levi Lusko. I had never heard of this title published in August 2015. I love books of all kinds, but especially true stories of courageous living, and this one as Aubrey described it briefly was one I was sure to read soon. Fast forward to today, and I have read and shared this book many times…a copy for my son, Walker’s 25th birthday, several excerpts for our friends, The Reads on the 2nd anniversary of their son’s passing, and then today, I used the below passage to get my girls at the Extension thinking before we started our collage projects.

Did you get that? “…most people die at 25 and are not buried until they are age 75.” Here is a collage created by one of my girls who is in recovery while using this quote as her inspiration.

This girl wants to “run to the roar of life” and I pray she will be able to sustain her sobriety in the days ahead in order to do just that!

You see, we are just sojourners here on this earth, just passing through. The Word tells us that we are like grass and wild flowers, here today, and gone tomorrow. A sojourner, that is all…a person who resides temporarily in a place. My niece, Amy wore a watch when she was a teen that had a message written around the face of it: “This earth is not our home.” Yes, we are sojourners, here for such a short time.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C. S. Lewis

One brief conversation on a Saturday morning over hot tea, one story shared, one book published, and the message becomes a game-changer for myself and many others.

It reminds me that every beating heart has a story. When the time is right, when we share our stories with those in our path and sphere of influence, we can empower others to keep on keeping’ on, to keep their head up, to take the next right step in their journey, to refuse to give up.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

That is exactly what Pastor Levi Lusko does in his book. He takes an incredibly devastating season in his family’s life and helps readers to catch their breath, to gain strength and momentum during a time of grief.

But this book is not just about grief. No, it is evidence of death not being the end, of darkness not being the winner, of turning the Light on against dim circumstances.

A few more important excerpts from Lusko’s book:

How will you and I run to the roar of the lion in the days ahead. Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away. Are we roaring with life today? If not, why not?

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25 Memories Right From This Mother’s Heart

Walker’s handprint in Kindergarten 1997
Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. Charles R. Swindoll

Daddy and son, 1993
Big sis, Leah measures to see how tall her little brother is.
Mama and son, 1992

Today, February 27, 2017, I must share musings with you from this mother’s heart as our son, our second-born, celebrates his 25th birthday over 550 miles away, where he lives with his bride, Jessica, in St. Louis, MO.

That’s a lot closer than heaven, though, as I easily recall two precious ones, my sis, Laura Lea, and my dear friend, Kelly whose sons have passed in the last decade of life.

Memory...is the diary that we all carry about with us. Oscar Wilde

Life Is Precious…no doubt about it and that is why we call today: “The Present”.

Donald Walker Page made his début early on a Thursday. Thankfully, we had made plans with our long-time friends, The Pinto Family, to take care of Leah, our three-year-old, no matter what time the contractions started. Sleepily meeting us at their front door, Ron and Brenda took our girl in the middle of the night for an impromptu sleepover with Leah’s best buddy, Amanda. Within less than three hours, our son arrived. Like my delivery with Leah, my sister, Mary Ann was by my side, coaching me the entire way. Though a full-term baby, Walker weighed in at 6 pounds and 6 ounces. The lactation nurse asked me if I had smoked during my pregnancy. I abruptly told her, “NO!” It was determined that the umbilical cord was partially tied around his tiny neck during the final days of gestation, and this may have contributed to his lack of nutrition near the end. No matter how you look at it, every newborn is a miracle!

As famous author, Carl Sandburg often quoted, “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” I agree, both then and now, twenty-five years after the birth of our second and final child.

It is honestly hard to believe that 25 years have passed since that Thursday morning when we became parents to two.

Young Moms, when we tell you “Don’t Blink!!”, we really mean it.

You truly do have the most important job in the whole wide world, and though it is seriously exhausting, keep on keeping’ on!

Here are 25 memories from this Mama’s heart:

1-a tiny son in a hand-made cradle

2-a big sis, Leah, age 3.5 holding her new brother, wanting to pass him back, quick for fear of breaking him

3-Walker riding in his big sister’s baby doll umbrella stroller

4-messy high chair trays and a messy floor below

5-sleepless nights and lullabies, like “Love Me Tender” and “Sleep Sound In Jesus”

6-my favorite guy with his brand new son

7-beach fun, snow angels, and lake time

8-date time with his favorite girl, starting on Jessica’s 16th birthday, April 27, 2001

9-a handsome high-schooler on the tennis court

10-eternal love of grandparents

11-puppy love with Gracie, our yellow lab

12-college campus visits to Clemson, Samford, Baylor, UGa, and finally picking Wheaton College to spend the next 4 years

13-pictures plastered on the side of the frig for another birthday celebration

14-proud kindergartener, gaining independence, day-by-day

15-Sunday morning Danish sweet rolls before church

16-prom dates, homecoming floats, projects, and field trips

17-vacations with the “core four” before two 2014 weddings

18-a disappointed 3rd grade camper leaving camp early with a painful, broken collarbone

19-inviting Gracie, our yellow lab, to join him in his senior photo shoot

20-being pen pals with Walker while he was in college

21-weekly Facetimes with Jess and Walker as they both continue their education in Missouri

22-loving notes on Mother’s Day and at Christmas

23-the phrase our son always includes in his prayer at mealtime: “Help us to love You more.”

24-the best friend relationship that has evolved between brother and sister

25-unconditional love Walker exhibits to his friends and family

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

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

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

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

We Will Never Forget!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our friend, Will Kramer shows his respect.

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

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

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

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

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

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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…

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