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

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We all need time away to retreat. So this past weekend, November 11-13, 2016, seventeen women from Piedmont Church in Marietta, gathered in the North Georgia Mountains for a retreat. Even though we were all so glad to be together, the date we chose ended up not being the best weekend for all who attended. One of our friend’s husband was celebrating his 6-0 (they celebrated early).

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Another friend’s daughter had a birthday (they celebrated late, on Sunday afternoon). I am quite sure there were other commitments among the 17 of us that went unmentioned.  Like most women, our calendars are always full of  engagements, work obligations, and conflicts, but somehow, we managed to steal away for two nights, all in the name of faith and friendship.

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Women’s Retreat Breakfast

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find them scarce.

If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Zig Ziglar

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

img_6662img_6660We connected with nature, we cooked together, danced together, laughed together, exercised together, prayed together, sang together,  bunked together, laughed together some more, and cried together. There were several quiet one-on-one conversations where hearts connected.15095430_10208012373692815_6339721073766000874_n

At the end, when it was time to say our good-byes, we all agreed that we were re-fueled, encouraged, and lifted up. We felt better equipped to face the days ahead, no matter what they may bring.

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As this year draws to an end, and 2017 makes its début in just forty-seven days, consider what group of like-minded women you may need to steal away with.

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

img_6675img_6686 img_6683 img_6677img_6676img_6681Make some plans. Consider being the one who initiates the get-away. You and all who attend will be forever grateful! No matter our age or season in life, women need time together. And if you are a gentleman reading this, please stand by your sweetheart in support when she makes her plans to take a brief retreat with girlfriends. Times spent with girlfriends or my sisters, whether it is these church friends, college friends, girls from my childhood, or local friends, these times are always memorable, encouraging, and treasured occasions for me!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Girls Need Time Together: 3 Illustrations

Solitude: 7 Ways To Find It

The Long and Winding Road

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Honesty With The Truest of Friends

8 Traits of an Authentic, Successful Woman

We’ve Got Your Back

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

Where Is He?

RETREAT

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part One

Choose To Not Be Blue: Part Two

Joy Comes In The Morning

Girls Need Time Together

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

Climb Every Mountain The Great Smoky Mountains

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“Climb Every Mountain,

Ford Every Stream,

Follow Every Rainbow,

‘Till You Find Your Dream.”

(from the musical, The Sound of Music)

Do you have dreams for the future?

In any given moment, we are guided by one of two maps: a vision map, which is a deliberate map for our future, or a default map, which is made up of our past. Choices made from our default map---our repetitive, automatic programming---DO NOT nourish our flames, nor do they move us closer to our dreams. AND even though they might feel right to us, they do simply because they are familiar. The right questions wake you up! from page 23, The Right Questions: 10 Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life, Debbie Ford

Have you begun to let some of those dreams slip away? Nearly one year ago, my hiking buddy, Kathy invited me to join her and three friends for a hiking adventure. I immediately said yes, not knowing that this past week, our eight-hour hike up, viewing the sunset from a 7,000 foot vista, and trekking back down in six hours would inspire me so.  After my recent climb up to the Summit of Mt. Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains, my dreams have been rekindled. Laughing, singing Rod Stewart, songs from musicals, Carole King, and JT, telling long stories, and “unplugging for a time” all served to rejuvenate and inspire the five of us!

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thanks for this, Melissa Chambers! Let’s Do This!

Especially in light of the horrific current events in Orlando, Florida, it is easy to feel discouraged, defeated, and hopeless, too. If your dreams are trying to die on you, watch this for inspiration!

It has been said that “getting old is not for sissies”, and as I draw nearer to the end of my fifth decade, I am finding this to be true. Life, at any stage, takes great courage. Climbing a huge mountain has helped to decrease my fears and rebuild my courage for the days ahead.

I was able to celebrate my friend, Cyndi’s 60th birthday this past Saturday and a friend I saw there shared that she found it hard to do things for herself during this season of her life, with grown married children and grandchildren now here. I told her about the 3 nights I snuck away to climb Mt. Le Conte with friends, and how doing that ( I am hoping) will make me a stronger and more loving woman, Mother, and Mom-In-Law, as well as a Grandma to our (future) grandchildren. <smile>

So what are the dreams you have had in your past that might be trying to slip away because of time and circumstances? What’s on your list, what “mountains” would you like to climb to gain serenity and hope for the future? Our adventure happened to be extremely physically challenging, but your dreams and my dreams can be whatever they are, unique to each one of us: keeping a journal, visiting a historical nearby community you’ve been thinking of,  increasing your fitness, snagging 15-30 minutes each day for some solitude, some alone time, and more. Take a few moments to sit quietly, perhaps with pen and paper at hand, and jot down a few of your dreams.

Dreams CAN come true, like the rigorous hike that five women, including a social worker, three nurses, and a teacher, all in our fifties took on June 7-8, 2016.  Though there are no showers or electricity at the top, the Mt. Le Conte staff took great care of us feeding us delicious, family style meals. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will use mostly pictures to share our experience with you. Click here to see a cool, short video about the LLAMA Train that takes place on Trillium Gap Trail 2-3 times each week!

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We hiked up this trail. The first 2.7 miles is part of the AT!
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We hiked down this trail. We were able to see the llamas several times!

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Getting started at Newfound Gap. The first 2.7 miles of Boulevard Trail is part of the AT!
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My hiking buddy, Kathy.
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Connecting with Nature.
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A panoramic view of the vistas and Kathy.
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A favorite spot: Myrtle Point
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A fellow hiker taking in the sunset.
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A panoramic view of our sunset on June 7, 2016, Cliff Top.
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Pure Joy pouring from my new friend, Linda.
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Lisa staying warm at sunset, Cliff Top.
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Our cabin. The bucket was for the hot water to wash our faces with!
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Recorded on my Apple Watch after the hike down.
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Tho we saw no bears, there were lots of sightings in the days just following our visit.
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At 6,593 feet, Mt. Le Conte is the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies.
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The llama train travels 3 days each week, delivering supplies to the Lodge.
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Almost to the end of Trillium Gap Trail.
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Grotto Falls, about 1.5 miles up from Trillium Gap Trailhead.

IMG_3684Let’s Keep Our Dreams Alive!

Change Of Heart How Is Your Heart Today?

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The longer I live, the more I have realized that LIFE is all about the HEART.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

 Both the physical, beating heart, and our inner, soulful heart. Now in my 50s, a continuous change of heart is one of my greatest desires: to keep my physical heart as healthy as humanly possible, and to keep my inner heart engaged, honest, connected to my God, and linked with others.

I shared here in my recent post 10 Things That Organized People Do, that in late January, 2016, I decided to rejoin a Weight Watchers Program to give me some assistance with my health goals.

As I sat in a meeting last week, I was inspired by a woman about my age who shared that she had been in a wheelchair for the past three years, and just that week had completed her first fitness walk! Inspiration is everywhere when we are looking for it. I have come to realize that the “new” Weight Watcher’s program is emphasizing the inner heart. Not just a number on the scales. The program encourages the participants to look after him or herself. In fact, the tag line on their planning guide is:

LOSE WEIGHT….GET HEALTHIER…AND LIVE HAPPIER!

Here are some of the posters in the new Weight Watcher center in Kennesaw, Georgia:

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If losing weight is your primary goal, it is important to know that the Weight Watchers Program, if followed pretty closely, promises 1-3 lbs of loss per week. This is consistent with the results I have seen since restarting on January 27, 2016. I have appreciated the ease of scanning foods, and then deciding if consuming them will be worth it, and also knowing that ALL fruits and veggies are free! As long as you consider quantities and choices, the plan is fairly easy to follow, allowing chocolate, wine, and other luxuries.

Life-style change and a healthy state of well-being is what I am going for. If you still have children and/or grandchildren in your weekly life, consider Kitchen Twins. Emily and Lyla have a mission to get the family in the kitchen together cooking healthy foods. But, this post is not just about weight loss. It’s about our hearts!

Did you know? Our hearts, both inner and outer, need daily attention, just like many other things do.

What?  “Something else needs my attention???” While I did not get the speaker’s name, I recently heard a radio show and I liked this idea of checking in daily with your inner heart:

“As you drive along in your car, stopping at stop lights or in traffic jams, notice when the car stops, therefore stopping your body, allow your mind to stop, as well.  Just for that couple of minutes, do some deep breathing, allowing your mind to rest. Your inner heart will reap the benefits.”

As you practice this daily, be sure to silence that inner critic voice that tries to rear its ugly head. Read an earlier post, Fire The Bad Boss Inside, by clicking here.

I am quite sure you have heard the oxygen mask story, but it bears repeating. Click here to read it.

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According to The American Heart Association, our physical hearts can benefit so much from 30 minutes of cardiovascular fitness a few days a week. Here are a couple of articles to get us moving: Identifying Your Fitness Goals, Breaking Down Barriers To Fitness, and Making A Commitment To Fitness. With Spring upon us, we are at the perfect time to set some goals for a daily walk.

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An integral part of keeping my inner heart in tune is reading and meditating on scripture often. Click here for some of my go-to verses that reference our hearts.

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How is your heart today?

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Have you ever read the story of Corrie ten Boom? If not, click on the link below to read about this courageous woman!

Corrie ten Boom

Ten Ways To Savor Autumn

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Our first-born, Leah is an October Baby
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“Princess” Leah, October 1989

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

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Our Parents were married October 1947
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We were married October 1982

While I cannot say that Fall is my absolutely favorite season, it is truly one of my favorites! [pullquote]Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald[/pullquote] I LOVE all four seasons for different reasons, but we’ve always cherished and savored Autumn as our season to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and even heavenly home goings of both my mother and my father.

Ten Ways To Savor This Autumn Season Before It Gets Away:

1)  Open car windows, letting in the cooler air.

2) Notice the majestic, changing landscape.

3) Take a hike in the mountains. 

 4)  Make an apple or pumpkin pie.

5)  Wrestle in the fallen leaves.

6)  Warm by a fire.

7)  Light a pumpkin-scented candle.

8)  Carve a pumpkin.

9)  Take in a football game with great munchies and beverages.

10)  Make a list of ten things you are grateful for in Fall 2015. 

One thing our family is truly grateful for this fall is the improved health of our Dad and GrandDaddy, Donald A. Page, Sr. After a very serious bout of double pneumonia earlier this year. He is feeling much stronger and we rejoiced with him as we celebrated his 85th birthday with him this past Tuesday night.

What is on your list of things to be grateful for today?

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Don Page, Sr. born during the depression on 10/13/30 celebrates his 85th Birthday as his only child, my husband, looks on.

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

By now, everyone has heard the horrific, the amazing story of what happened on a Paris-bound train on Friday, this past week. An off-duty, U.S. Airman, Spencer Stone overpowered a gunman with the help of three other men: Alex Skarlatos, a member of the U.S. National Guard, Anthony Sadler, a U.S. student, and Briton, Chris Norman. What led them to react so quickly? Stone’s answer came in one word: SURVIVAL.

But what if these gentleman were caught up in “tunnel vision” on that Friday, August 21, 2015? What if their complete focus was on themselves—their phones, their earbuds with music, their calendars, their agenda for that day? The outcome on that fast-moving train could’ve been very different, with the potential of many lives lost, if these four had been too busy to notice who was in their path.

My personal story here today is not nearly as dramatic as the one above, but in some ways, I believe it is just as important. It’s not about watching for “evil” folks in our path, but rather being on the look-out for small ways in which we can have a big impact in the lives of others in our own sphere of influence.

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This past Tuesday, I arrived early for my Bikram Hot Yoga class. As I entered the locker room, I noticed three ladies talking quietly and intently as one of them was weeping. Trying not to be intrusive, I did overhear them say that the woman who was crying had just lost a daughter. As the other two slipped out, I introduced myself to the one who was grieving and asked her if I could give her a big hug. She readily agreed. We chatted a few more minutes before class as she shared with me about her much loved daughter and how much she missed her, with her having only passed so recently on July 30, 2015. As she wept some more, I told her that one reason her grief was so big was because she had loved well. She seemed to really “hear” what I was saying. I also shared with her that though I, myself had not lost a child, my sister had in 2009 (see Celebrate Me Home post),  and dear friends lost their son in March earlier this year. (see Where Is He? or Joy Comes In The Morning posts) Even though it was impossible to change this new friend’s circumstances, I could join her in her grief, in hopes this would help her to feel less alone.

Earlier in the morning, before I left for Bikram, I took a few minutes to read through a devotion entitled Keeping Life In Focus.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13 NLT

 In a brief nutshell, the reading emphasized four things that will come about as we keep our lives in focus: our priorities will fall into order, we will develop a forward mind-set, focus will set us on the second mile, and it will enable us to know where we are going. This devo is in the book my Tennessee Tech girlfriends and I are reading together this year, starting on page 156: The Joshua Code, By, O.S. Hawkins. I am writing about this devotion because one of my frequent prayers is:

“Dear Precious and Heavenly Father,
please order my day,
help me to be a blessing in someone’s path.”
Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. James M. Barrie

I have a friend named David (DRB) who is forever looking for ways to brighten someone’s day. When you see David, you can fully expect to receive a super friendly greeting from him, a big smile paired with a hug. He has clearly made it a priority to bring joy to the lives of others, to those he finds in his daily path.

Did you know that we can even smile with our eyes and with our heart?

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Just taking time to notice those in our paths could make a world of difference in one’s day, or possibly in a life. This reminds me of a story that is suitable for retelling/adapting for any age child. I read this story about Kyle many years ago, perhaps you’ve heard it, too:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the smiles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class.

I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle.

He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous.

Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach … but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.

I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions.  (copied)”

With one small gesture, perhaps even with a smile, you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

Let’s take time to notice who is in our path.

Aimee Copeland Living Life

On April 23, 2015, I wrote a post entitled We Are Called To Be Brave and here is an excerpt from that post:

 The older I get, the more I realize that life as we know it can change on a dime. When that unexpected, often shocking change shows up, we are called for bravery beyond what we might believe we can offer to the circumstances before us.

I have definitely learned that it is a process—being brave—it may not just happen, but that doesnt’ mean that bravery won’t evolve as the days go by.

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Aimee Copeland has kept this determined attitude and glowing smile since her life-changing accident in May 2012. “Patience is the name of the game, there’s a whole lot of ‘hurry up and wait.'” Aimee Copeland

Most of you will remember the story of Aimee Copeland, the athletic, graduate student who was injured on a homemade zip line back in May of 2012. I suspect that Tuesday, May 1, 2012, was a day much like yesterday in Georgia. Full sun. Birds singing. High between 75-80 degrees. Aimee and some of her classmates were ready for a reward, some fun in the sun. Aimee had just completed her last final for her last class of the semester, studying at West Georgia as a graduate student. What began as a beautiful time in nature with friends turned tragic when Aimee encountered an equipment malfunction on her second pass on the line. Her fall set the stage for the development of necrotizing fasciitis which led to amputations and the failure of her five major organs. Instead of saying, “Why me?”, Aimee recognized that it could have been any one of her group of friends, but she was the injured one. Aimee also stated, “You can’t live your life being paranoid, or in a bubble. The truth is, things like this happen when you least expect it.” I assure you that the remainder of this post won’t be a downer. Instead I would like to share with you the many ways Aimee’s life journey has exhibited bravery and stick-to-itiveness, again and again.

LIFE calls for BRAVERY. It truly does. You can click here to read my April post in its entirety.

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“You cannot grow if you do not struggle.” Aimee Copeland
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. Mahatma Ghandi

I caught up with Aimee recently and asked her if I could share an update about her current life journey, along with some recent pictures. Aimee wholeheartedly agreed! Three years ago doctors told Aimee she would never walk again without two forearm crutches, but every day victories keep Aimee motivated to reach her goals. When her trainer, LC Reese of Reesefit in Carrollton, GA, suggested trying her prosthetic legs on the treadmill for the first time, she jumped on and quickly mastered it, reaching a speed of 2 mph. Proving the doctors wrong, she released the treadmill and walked completely unaided for two minutes at a time! Next up, she plans on walking a 5K to show people with and without disabilities that with the power of perseverance anything is possible!11164841_1639067282993565_8144863041424290737_n

Aimee traveled to Ohio in May of this year to be fitted with new myoelectric “robo arm” prostheses by the great folks at Touch Bionics and world-class prosthetist Randy Alley.

This past August 5, 2015, a You-Tube video was publishing showing Aimee getting biodesigns’ HiFi Prosthetic Sockets.

 

Aimee has built a new life for herself that includes white water rafting, wake boarding, climbing, and a lot of other great activities. She is living life well!

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Aimee is indebted  to her fabulous teachers, Joe Gudger and Chris Townsend. As Winnie the Pooh so wisely said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

“Helping other people is one of the most healing things a person can do.” Aimee Copeland
The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

One focus which Aimee is developing more and more is reaching out and aiding people in her path who have similar circumstances she is living in these days, as shown here with a young man who is an amputee. She wants to be available and supportive of anyone in a similar life experience. In fact, Aimee was in the news in July 2015 for offering encouragement to a young woman in Gwinnett County who has been suffering with this same condition: Necrotizing Fasciitis. Read about this here. In addition, Aimee has become a spokesperson about the signs of illness that could be associated with the chances of this life-threatening condition, and is also encouraging those who live with disabilities to realize more freedoms that can come with their life circumstances. Aimee has a background in psychology, and is working towards a second Masters in Social Work. As Aimee shared with Denis O’Hayer and Rose Scott on a June 18, 2015, NPR interview, the two big “take-aways” she tries to give to her listeners are The Power of Perseverance and The Power of Compassion. Click here to listen to the 13 minute NPR interview in its entirety.

Two years ago doctors told Aimee she would never walk again without at least two crutches. Here she is a year later, proving them wrong. She recently has taken many steps completely unaided by crutches.

No one can decide your limits for you.

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If they try, it provides a great opportunity to prove them wrong.
It's not what you have, but what you do with what you have that really matters. Regardless of who you are, there's always a way to experience a connection with the world. Kahil Gibran

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” Only YOU can decide what possibilities await you!

Resilience and perseverance have helped Aimee find a new normal after surviving an extreme case of flesh-eating bacteria. She has built a new life for herself and says that COMMUNITY, social, and family support, have been of utmost importance for Aimee’s mental recovery. This makes me wonder how you and I can have a positive impact in our own sphere of influence in the days ahead.

What ‘community’ can you and I join up with in order to be an encouragement to someone in our path who is going through a difficult season?

WHAT WOULD YOU ATTEMPT TO DO IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD NOT FAIL?

To Stay Fit Don't Just Sit

While I am glad I was able to finish the planned hikes earlier this month on our visit to The Rockies, I must tell you that I could tell a difference in my endurance level during those same hikes only a couple of years ago. I know a slower metabolism and less physical endurance is a natural part of the aging process, but that doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t fight back!

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In a book I found back in 2008, and one I have mentioned before, the authors boldly state in the first chapter:

Take charge of your bodies. Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. Authors of Younger Next Year

“It’s hard to summarize this book, but there are three important things, EXERCISE, NUTRITION, and COMMITMENT.

  • The biggest one—and the biggest change for most people is exercise. It is the golden key to great health. You should exercise hard almost every day of your life. And do strength training, lift weights, two or three of those six days. Exercise is the key to great aging.
  • Quit eating the things that you know are rotten for you, like fast food and lots of fat and simple carbs. And eat less of everything.
  • Commitment. What I mean is, you have to be involved with other people. And you have to care about something. Goals. Charities…people…family…job…hobbies. Be engaged in life.” (page 36)

I highly recommend this book, Younger Next Year For Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy-Until You’re 80 and Beyond By, Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.  and a used copy can be purchased for $0.01, plus $3.99 on Amazon. There is one for men (yellow cover) and one for women (hot pink cover).

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As we have watched my husband’s father increase his strength after a very grave season of illness in the past few months, I questioned his physical therapist, Reid, about aging and strength. What he told me has stuck with me:

“It is much harder to age as a

sedentary person than as an active person.

Your bones, muscles, everything,

really, weaken the more we SIT.”

I realize that not everyone can be super mobile. Illnesses and disabilities can hold us back. Still, each of us who has a beating heart can do some kind of moving each day.

Even though I have always enjoyed a high level of activity, I must admit I have also always had a hard time “fitting in FITNESS”. No matter what season of life we may be traveling through, I KNOW it’s important to have regular exercise as a part of it. Yes, I have known this for most of my life, but doing it consistently, well, that is a different thing!

From my journal on January 1, 1997 when Walker was 4 1/2 and Leah, age 8 were living under our roof:

Regular Exercise! Spring Tennis is coming, but until then, I must get into some regular 3X a week-something! Either early A.M walks, Nordictrack, or rollerblading with Leah…something! Fitness can be done anywhere, home, neighborhood, Health Place, as long as you DO IT!”

That was nearly 19 years ago, and here I am still wanting to make it a consistent goal to fit fitness into my weeks, my months, and the rest of my days. Perhaps that is a sure sign that this is something others struggle with too…Keeping Fitness a Priority.

Let’s consider what some good options are for fitting fitness into our busy days:

  • Our long-time friends Jan and David have determined that an early morning, simple walk in their neighborhood does the trick for them. Janny has especially been faithful to this habit for decades, and David is realizing how their daily walk truly does impact how he feels the rest of the day. During the Summer of 2013, Jan and I made up a silly statement that we still use today to keep us ever mindful of our need to MOVE: “If we don’t walk, we won’t walk.” <smile>
  • Our daughter, Leah has been attending Orange Theory Fitness Classes near her home for several months now and she can see a big difference in her stress level at work and how her clothes are fitting her. I attended a class with Leah and her friend, Carly on Tuesday night and it was a great workout. This is a financial sacrifice for them as young marrieds, but as long as Leah attends the classes as she has committed to, then both Scott and Leah feel it is worth the extra expense. It was fun running into some familiar faces leaving the class just before us, Patty, Vickye, and Bonny. And Vickye’s daughter, Jessica was our awesome OT Coach for the night.
  • SWIM AWHILE! Check out your local YMCA’s schedule for times the pool is available for adults only.
  • My friend, Jackie has a Tuesday weekly commitment of instructing senior citizens in “chair yoga” at a nearby Assisted Living Home. They love it as they circle up the chairs, move slowly in different “poses”, including a Sun Salutation chair style, as Jackie directs them. Jackie reminds these residents during each class to be grateful for their lives and to smile at each other even if no smile is returned. Many of these chair yoga folks are in their mid-late 80s and one is 95! This engages Jackie, while it helps these folks to “keep moving.”
  • How about a RUN? I jogged throughourBrookstone neighborhood a lot during the years of 1989-1999, running “the four-mile loop” as we called it. Donny and I participated in the 4th of July Peachtree Road Race for many years and we always loved the challengeandthe excitement of this vigorous 6.2 race every time we ran or walked it.
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    Donny, Ron, and Rich Peachtree Road Race 2002.
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Mom and Walker cross the finish line at The Peachtree Road Race on July 4, 2003
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Make Family Fitness Goals Together!
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Best Girlfriends, and both now, young Moms, Amy and Kim get ready for the big race!
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Joan and Karen at Peachtree Road Race 2002

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Our collection of Peachtree Road Race Numbers from years gone by. If you’ve never participated in this July 4th race, you should consider it in 2016! Walkers are Welcome!

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Don’t forget about nearby Kennesaw Mountain where you are sure to get a good workout! Meet up with one or more friends to get your fitness in. A 30 + minute walk, jog, or run in your community or at a nearby park is a great way to fit fitness into your busy life. Just be sure to wear a reflective vest if you are running at dawn, dusk, or after dark.

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  • BIKE! We are fortunate to have the Silver Comet Trail not too far from our home. The Silver Comet Trail is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s free of charge, and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. This quiet, non-motorized, paved trail is for walkers, hikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, horses, dog walkers, and is wheelchair accessible.
    What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? Robert H. Schuller

    The Silver Comet Trail is 61.5 miles long, and starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, Georgia. It ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown and The Esom Hill Trailhead.

  • Save your dollars to invest in some exercise DVDs or even a piece of home exercise equipment such as a treadmill, a stationary bike, a set of free weights. If you store them in your bedroom, do not allow yourself to use them as a clothes rack! <smile>
  • One of my favorite fitness programs to participate in is Bikram Yoga. Well, it is not my favorite while I am doing it, but I LOVE how I feel when I am all done and showered. I am ready to TAKE ON THE DAY after one of the 90 minute hot yoga classes there.  Click on Bikram Yoga to watch a short video! And we also have other great yoga studios in our area such as Be Yoga and Hot Yoga and Wellness Center in Kennesaw, just to name a few.
  • Set a good example by MOVING with your young family! My Dad lived healthily for 93+ years, walking daily until he passed.  I remember as a young girl, he would get us to help him line up 10 or more pinecones for his daily jog around our big back yard. Every time he came to the line of cones, he would kick one and that is how he kept track of his laps. Perhaps that is where my interest in an active lifestyle happened.

These are all great ideas for fitting in fitness, but what about MOTIVATION and COMMITMENT?

Remember, it is never too late to start doing something that will benefit your health!

Following are some of the ways Donny and I stay dedicated, motivated and committed to get our fitness in each week:

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OUR latest goal involves less about weight loss and more about getting our heart rate up and keeping it up for a period of time.
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We use this wet marker chart to keep track of our work-out days. Donny and I have a friendly competition between each other.

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While this may seem “elementary” to some, I find it useful to use a checklist like this to keep myself accountability when I am having an unusually difficult time staying motivated.

How will you and I fit fitness into our lives in the days ahead?

“Respond to yourself like you would respond to a friend.”

Anne Lamott, Author

10 Ways To Savor This Moment

Scott holds Precious Peyton Thomas, born June 15, 2015.
Scott holds precious Peyton Thomas, born June 15, 2015.

I have many friends who have recently told me either “my baby started preschool, started elementary school/middle school/high school,” or “is headed to college,” or “my last one has finished college.”

Many others are celebrating brand new children, like baby Peyton pictured above, or welcoming beautiful new grandchildren. Peyton has brought many changes to the lives of parents Kayla and Steven.

A boy on the playground of his school with a backpak

All of these are big milestones, which I’ve experienced, too…a new baby, sending #1 of two children to kindergarten, the “baby” graduating high school, then college, and on and on. After pouring myself into being the best MOM I could be, even with the countless ups and downs, the multiple mistakes I made, I wouldn’t trade a thing for the chance to be a Mother.

One thing I know for sure, though, is that every Mom needs caring for, too!

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Though not a mom herself, Oprah Winfrey has often said: “Being a Mom is the toughest job in the world if you are doing it right.” I agree! Especially if you really care a lot about the grown-up results of your efforts.

Still when these milestones, these changes in our role as a Mom come up, perhaps like my experience, there may be times you feel a little lost, or you might even struggle a bit with where your identity is if the new season means your child or children don’t need you as much as they did in the years that have gone by.

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I’ve mostly attempted to look at these seasons, these milestones, as working myself out of a job. And to me, that’s a very good and healthy way to see these important times in our journey. I have come to believe in the importance of allowing our children to spread their wings, guard against our possible tendency to hover and being a “helicopter Mom.”

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I LOVE the gift shop in Cracker Barrel!

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge you are never alone.”  Audrey Hepburn 

I believe this may be a splendid opportunity to look inside and be our own kind of beautiful!

Following are ten things you might consider doing when a season of big change, especially during Motherhood, comes along:

  • Ramp up your exercise and drink more water.
  • Visit the Public Library to hang out, research a subject you are curious about, or to read quietly.
  • Rest.
  • Schedule a power walk, a picnic, or coffee with a girlfriend.
  • Find a job or hobby which you feel passionate about.
  • Volunteer-Ministering to those in your path. Here is a list to get you started and you can also check the Resources Page at the top of Pages From Joan.
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    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Take a few minutes out for a nice bubble bath with SPA or CLASSICAL music playing in the background.
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    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Meditate on the Word and Pray for God to order your day. Consider joining a small Bible Study Group through your church or neighborhood. Pray for your children, your grandchildren and other children in your sphere of influence. Here is a short prayer to get you started:
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    from Savor This Moment: Embracing the Goodness in Everyday Life, By, Karla Dornacher
  • Send short notes, letters, or cards to out-of-town family or friends.
  • Take a few minutes to PAMPER YOURSELF now and then! Only you know what that means for you.  And if you still have school children in your home, doing this will make you better able to face the afternoon when that bewitching hour of 2:30-3:30 comes…that time when you best be ready to drive carpools, help with HW, have snacks & supper for a certain number of hungry folks and on and on. And don’t forget bedtime story time, as referenced in one of my latest blog posts: Spiders, Oh MY

You may be brainstorming about some things

to add to my “Savor This Moment”

list I have come up with

about the changing seasons in a Mom’s life.

If so, please leave a comment here or on my

Pages From Joan Facebook Page so

that we can have as many ideas as possible

for Mommies in all seasons of their journey.

IMG_5081IMG_5085THIS post reminds me of a favorite song, click here to listen.

“Time goes by-We’re movin’on”

“There is never a wish better than this!”    “Every Day’s a New Day.”

“Chasing the Years of my Life.”

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Read It Loud

Busy School Days

Invigorating Intriguing ITALY

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On the Ponte Vecchio Bridge over the Arno River, Florence, Italy, June 28, 2015

Before our travels began, I headed to the public library to check out the Fodor’s Guide for Italy, France, and Spain. Instead of taking those along with us, I made us each a travel packet specific to the places we were going. Then, I checked out a children’s book for each country. These came in very handy for maps, culture, foods, and more. They made for easy, light reading along the way and because of their size, they were easy to pack.

Our Celebrity cruise ship docked in Florence on Sunday, June 28, 2015, six hours ahead of our clocks back in Atlanta, Georgia. We agreed that with only 12 hours in the Livorno Port, the Tuscan Region of Italy, having a scheduled guide to direct our day was an excellent idea. Thanks to Donny for thinking ahead and setting this up for the six of us!

From Livorno to the city of Florence was about a 50 minute drive and the scenery was beautiful and filled with hills and fertile valleys. I especially enjoyed the huge fields of sunflowers that popped up unexpectedly now and then. Our driver soon delivered us to our spectacular guide, Agnes, who would show us the sights of Florence, explaining everything in great detail as we walked. Later, as I checked my pedometer clipped to my waist, it would register 9,720 steps!

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Here, our guide, Agnes, chats with Scott. She was so knowledgeable and fun to be around. Agnes was a super guide!

Did you know? Michelangelo was first discovered as a gifted artist at the age of 14. He went on to create the masterful David starting in the year of 1449 at the age of 26 and presenting the completed magnum opus at age 29. He unveiled the statue of David in the year 1452 to a thrilled city of Florence. Here below is an example of the exact type of stone which Michelangelo worked with during that time.

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Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

David was always in there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.”

Michelangelo (6 March 1475-18 February 1564) an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art (Wikipedia)

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The San Lorenzo to the Accademia in Florence, Italy is where David is housed.

Michelangelo clearly created this remarkable work to represent the young man in the well-known Bible Story about David and Goliath. While I have not read Gladwell’s book, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, my Tennessee friend, Susan, has read it and highly recommends it.

You see, Goliath, the Philistine giant, was equal to the heavyweight champion of the world and he had everything going for him. He had every advantage possible. He had great ability and he was trained, equipped, experienced, battle tested and battle hardened, and he was completely fearless. He was totally confident but it could also be said that he was overconfident.
David had no armor, no experience, no equipment, he was not battle tested, nor was he trained. But one thing he had that Goliath also had was confidence but the huge difference was his confidence was in His God and not in his own strength. David looked Goliath square in the eye because He knew that God was with Him in this battle and if God is for you, who can fight against you (see Romans 8:31)? The obvious answer is no one.

Observe his strong fingers wrapped around the stone in the statue of David’s hand. Notice his look of fierce determination. This is a man who was relying on his God, with all of his might. In our day and time, Michelangelo’s work continues to be  an extraordinary illustration of how humans today can choose to live out their lives, trusting in God, no matter how big the battle may seem.

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This angel on the side of the enormous Duomo is believed to watch over and protect the city of Florence.
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Arno River in Florence, Italy standing on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

The historic center of Florence, Italy, is flat and compact—you can walk from one end to the other in half an hour. In the middle of everything is the Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with its huge dome towering over the city’s terra-cotta rooftops. The first stone for the Duomo was placed on September 8, 1296, and took more than 140 years to complete. The main three colors of marble are: white symbolizing faith, green symbolizing hope, and reddish pink symbolizing charity/love.

Jessica and Leah take pictures of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio.
Jessica and Leah take pictures of the Arno River from Ponte Vecchio.

During Spring Break 2001, our family of four toured Italy, Rome, Florence, and Venice and made it to the top of the Duomo.

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Walker and Leah in Florence again after fourteen years!

Though not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic—all six of us were planning to climb the 463 steps in the Duomo on this trip. Our hopes to make the climb were dashed when Agnes, our guide shared with us that it is closed on Sundays due to all day worship services. Emanating out from the Duomo are Renaissance-era neighborhoods identified by their central churches and piazzas.

The Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio is the greatest landmark in the most impressive square-Piazza della Signoria. Lunch was pizza, of course, followed by gelato! Soon we were crossing the Arno River on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge filled with shops, art galleries, and restaurants. What a festive and invigorating place to be!

Spinach pizza
Spinach  and sausage pizza
One of Walker's favorite parts of Italy: Gelato!
One of Walker’s favorite parts of Italy: Gelato!

Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity. Whether the couple actually believes that these legends work or not, they will find themselves believers for at least that moment at the Ponte Vecchio. Aside from the beauty of the architecture and the wealth of history that the bridge has seen for centuries, the Ponte Vecchio crosses over the Arno River, a site of one of the most romantic places in Florence. Lovers will definitely be caught up in the romance of the Ponte Vecchio, especially if they also get to experience the breathtaking sunset over the Arno River in the process. The practice of locking padlocks to the Ponte Vecchio was probably started by a locksmith who held shop at the foot of the bridge, in an effort to raise his revenue. The Ponte Vecchio has always been a bridge for merchants from the very beginning, with tables lining the bridge instead of the chic shops that many tourists enjoy today.

These days, however, it is not advisable for tourists to come flocking to the famous bridge and become part of the famous legend. At some point, the overabundance of padlocks gave the bridge a gaudy appearance and the government had to resort to removing these excessive padlocks, and for a time continued to keep on removing them, as they kept multiplying at will.Today, there is a hefty penalty to all who are caught locking or attaching anything to the Ponte Vecchio. These days, lovers simply come to the famous bridge and simply touch the remaining padlocks that have not been removed. Luck has kept them there, locked to the bridge, perhaps some luck will rub off on the hopeful couple as well, and keep their love alive for eternity. (Wikipedia)

Following our tour around Florence, Agnes sent us on our way back towards our ship, stopping in Pisa, Italy on the way.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. (Wikipedia)

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Back on the ship, after dinner, Scott helped me capture the moon over the Mediterranean Sea. : )

Thanks for joining me on our June 28, 2015 adventure through the  beautiful Tuscan region of Italy!

My next post will be all about Festive Fantastic France.