Brevity Of Life Love Your Peeps

Aussie, Holly Butcher passes away at age 27 from Ewing Sarcoma. She leaves behind an unforgettable message for those who want to hear it.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.' James 4:14

Have you heard? A final letter from a young, vibrant, Australian by the name of Holly Butcher has gone viral.

We know a bit about this horrific disease that took Holly from this earth. Sadly, our friends, Dixie and Benny lost their precious daughter, age 21, Christy to this same illness, Ewing Sarcoma.

There are many verses in the Bible about the brevity of our earthly life. Click here to read some of them.

Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:

Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:

1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”

2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”

3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”

4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”

5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”

6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”

7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”

8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”

9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”

10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”

Climbing Mt LeConte with friends June 2016

12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”

14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”

15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”

16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”

Wow, just wow!

The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Fighter Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Where Is He?

Hurting Hearts, Painful Pasts

Run To The Roar

No Expiration

Humble And Kind

Charlotte’s Web

A Grace Disguised

My Heart Will Go On

Music Moves Us

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong

Tears To Teddy Bears: A Story Of Courage

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Never Forget

Are You An Egg, A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

In The End, It’s Times Like These In The Following Images That Mean The Most In This Brief Earthly Life That We Live.

Girlfriends since Fernbank Elementary…the eight of us are known as FFs (definitely Friends Forever)
Walker and Noah 2016
Football, Friendship, Fellowship, Family
The freedom we enjoy in America is such an incredible gift. Many Thanks to all who serve, past, present, and future!!!
Leigh Andrews Fogg December 30, 2016
Christmas 2016 with Dad Page
Kathy and Joan on one of our countless Kennesaw Mountain Hikes
A few minutes to BE Still. (see Psalm 46:1;10)
Big Sis, Leah measures her little brother, Walker’s height

Contemplative Prayer
March 2017 Breckenridge Joan with my two awesome “in-law” kids, Jessica and Scott.
Anytime spent in a House of God
Kristen, founder of Kids Boost (kids boost.org) a non-profit which encourages kids 8-18 to give back to their communities!
My niece, Rachael and her family expecting #2 in this new year. They live in Wash State, but are close to us in Heart.
Grown-up, Meg takes a minute to hug on her MIMI.
Two of Meg’s Grandmas take time out for laughter!
Paul fixes Kay’s bike before Taylor’s Ride, October 2017.
Our quarterly Sister Session! Love this special time with my three sisters. Always feel like Mama is sitting there with us.
A Colorado visit with our Sam Hill Gang!
A local artist as he paints the majestic Rockies.
Leah and her Daddy-O March 2017.
Walker’s High School Grad Party, May 2010 with his GoodDaddy, My Daddy who passed on 11/11/13.
Newborn Donald Walker Page, born 2/27/92.
Our God calls us to have faith like a Mustard Seed. (see Matthew 17:20 which tells us we can move mountains with faith this size).
It is such a gift of this earthly life to take a few minutes to admire the handiwork of our God during a sunrise or a sunset.
Enough Energy and Strength to hike Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, June 2016.
The intricate details in Nature bring such delight and joy when we take the time to notice.
Our four-legged, furry friends make the best companions ever!

FRIENDS! Paul and Donny act crazy as they grill together.
Opportunities for Service whether Home Or Abroad! Here are two of the interpreters who worked with me in Rio de Janeiro on a recent mission trip.
NEW LIFE!!! “A BABY is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Carl Sanders
LEGACY! The gift of a loving, godly legacy never goes away. In fact, it only grows as a family grows. My late parents were married in 1947. My Mama was only 21 years old. They were missionaries in Africa for over five years, raised six children who are still married to our original spouses and were married 58 years at the time of Mama’s Homegoing in 2006.
I first met this group in 1976 and February, 2018, we will celebrate our 40th Reunion on Hilton Head Island over President’s Weekend!
Moving Our Bodies More To Encourage Better Health and More Strength.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES!
BOOKS! Have you visited a library lately?
My friend, Sarah, who was evacuated from Katrina in August 2005.
Just some of our fun, crazy, extraordinary extended family, December 2016.
time out during a Women’s Retreat for a walk in the woods at Lake Blue Ridge. Love our Piedmont Church Friends!
It is always a gift and a privilege to help one in need, like this little guy who is holding his shoebox provided by Samaritan’s Purse
As Mommy to Leah and Walker, it was always important to me to teach them to be givers. Thankfully, they and their spouses are such giving, compassionate, loving people. This makes my Mama heart smile really BIG!
Paul honors the life of his son, Taylor Heston Read who passed March 7, 2015, a life well-lived.
Collage art with my ladies at The Women’s Extension every other Tuesday morning fills me UP!
ART matters, here I am with artist, Holly Irwin and my original piece by Holly: Country Meadow. The girl in the piece is “me” when I was my younger self.
My two favorite girls in all the world. Leah, our daughter, to my right. Jessica, Walker’s wife to my left. St. Augustine Summer 2016.

 

Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Post You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Run To The Roar

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Every Beating Heart Has A Story Joey and Rory's Story

img_5380
Joey Martin Feek (9/9/75-3/4/16)

I saw a movie this past Tuesday night that was offered up for a two-night showing by Fathom Events. The next one is scheduled for October 6, 2016, if you decide you want to see it after reading this. The title of the movie is “To Joey, With Love”. Have you heard this story? You may have followed their journey on Rory’s Blog, This Life I Live.

Telling the truth and being real; feeding my family a home-cooked meal, that's important to me. That's important to me. Joey Feek

Seeing it has given me just one more certain reminder that every beating heart has a story, and Rory Feek, Joey’s husband wanted to be sure his late wife’s story was told. And now, I feel compelled to share it here with you.

Seeing this reminded me that none of us know how our stories will go. Life is full of uncertainty; with  no way to foresee what challenges or blessings await us. But as Rory shares this story, he assures us that though we may not know our story that is to come, we can trust, and hope, and have faith that God will bring “good” to our story, whatever that may turn out to mean.

“Some may have the wrong idea about the Christian life. Once they become believers, they may expect “smooth sailing”. Yet, God makes it clear from the beginning of the Word to the end that troubles are inevitable for those who call themselves His. Christ’s life was no exception: He endured false accusations, rejections by His own people, and betrayal by a close friend-to name just a few. As His followers, we expect difficulty. We can choose to look elsewhere for comfort, or we can use our hardship as a source of growth. No matter how painful the trial seems, let’s not waste the opportunity.” Dr. Charles Stanley

If we knew what was going to happen around the corner, we wouldn't get up in the morning. My Mama, Polly Shivers Walker

You see, Joey and Rory Feek were married in 2002, and had their first child together, Indiana in February of 2014.  Before parenthood, Joey and Rory had made quite a name for themselves as a country and bluegrass duo, but together they decided to take some time off on their Tennessee farm to bond with their newborn baby girl, Indy. Without telling you their whole story, I am hoping I have told you just enough to peak your interest, so that you might google them, or even better, find a theater that is showing their story on October 6, 2016. More than 750 theaters had a showing on the night that I went. You can click here to find tickets by putting in your zip code: A Story of Life, Love and Hope, that never dies.

Sometimes when you don't know what to say, you don't know what to pray, these hymns help. The hymns are here for us in the really tough times. Joey Feek

One of my most favorite songs that Joey and Rory sang together is “That’s Important To Me”. Click here to have a listen to it. Later, Rory and Joey complied “Hymns That Are Important To Us.” and you can hear part of their collection by clicking here.

Feeling broken hearted and blessed all at the same time this morning...watching my beautiful bride pour a lifetime of LOVE into a few minutes. Rory Feek, March 2016, in Joey's last earthly days
img_5373
Joey Martin Feek (9/9/75-3/4/16)
Yet you, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8

As I often say, life is not a dress rehearsal, it’s the real thing! Rory Feek shared that Joey lived several months longer than expected, but every single day, she LIVED. Just like she lived before she was ill, as though each day was her last. Do you and I live each day like that? I don’t, but I want to. Let’s Just Do It!

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

We Are Called To Be Brave

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

It Is Well With My Soul

Where Is He?

Peace Like A River

A Grace Disguised

The Simple Things

A Win For The Guinn Family And Kate’s Club Just Look What Kids Can Do!

14352049_10153696506947085_976405505604891544_o

WOW! $20,0002.69 = A Win for The Guinn Family and Kate’s Club! Just look at what kids can do! You may have read my recent post, Are You Driving?  Put The Phone Down, about Marietta triplets, MacKenna, Alyssa, and Issy, along with their mom, Kim, and the huge positive difference they are making in our world in the challenging and onerous aftermath of their Daddy, and Kim’s husband’s passing in 2014. You see, Frank, an Atlanta firefighter, was training for an upcoming race when he was struck and killed by a distracted driver.

Age seven at the time, at first, the triplets did not want to talk about their Daddy’s passing, it was just too hard! Thanks to an organization founded in June 2003, Kate’s Club has taught these sisters how to grieve in a healthy way, while moving forward. In addition, Kate’s Club, in Atlanta, Georgia, offers all of their resources free of charge, and they even hold monthly meetings for the grieving parents, which Kim Guinn has shared has been extremely helpful to her.

The soul is healed by being with children. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Once the sisters decided that they wanted to give back to Kate’s Club, a plan began to unfold and you can read about it in my earlier post here.

IMG_5128

I listened to The Bert Show live this morning, as they interviewed Mom, Kim, the triplets, as well as Kristen Stocks, founder of a life-changing organization from Kid’s Boost, and here is what I learned as a follow-up to this amazing story:

The Guinn Family contacted Kid’s Boost The Mission of Kid’s Boost is simple: To create a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others. Mrs. Stocks, the founder Of Kid’s Boost, believes that kids of all ages have the innate need and desire to do something great in the world. So, Kid’s Boost offered The Guinn Family $100.00 to begin their plan. Long story short, the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held this past Sunday on September 11, 2016, in Marietta, Georgia, raised $20,002.69…$15,002.69 more than their goal of $5,000!!!

14330111_1269264333106552_3500589584717615893_n
KIDS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! LET’S GIVE THEM THE CHANCE! Fun happenings at the first annual Running thru The Flames 5K held on September 11, 2016, Marietta, Georgia

This all began with three grieving girls who had lost their Daddy because of a distracted driver, a motivated (and also grieving) Mommy, $100.00 and this family’s desire to make a difference while honoring their precious loved one. So I leave you now with a few thoughts:

  • Do you have kids or grandkids? Would you like to see them more confident? What is important to your child? THINK BIG! Contact Kid’s Boost and they will help you empower your kids to do great things to give back in fun ways.
  • Are you and I distracted drivers, one who is constantly handling our phones while behind the wheel? Read here about a tragic accident that happened just this week in Athens, Georgia, stealing a life away, a UGA Grad Researcher, Ashley Block, age 25, instantly. The driver, age 31 has been found to not only be looking at her cellphone, but also impaired.  As Kim Guinn states: “Pass them like you love them, because someone ‘does’ love them. Bikers, joggers, pedestrians have families just like you.”
  • Do you know someone who is struggling with the loss of a child or a parent? If so, encourage them to contact Kate’s Club. This $20,000+ raised by The Guinn triplets will fund camps, outings, parental resources, all kinds of great things, all in the name of helping families who are grieving the loss of a family precious member.

And finally, remember that TODAY is a gift, and that is why we call it “The Present”. Click here to read one of my favorite posts: The Simple Things.  Make Today A Great Day!

Posts You May Have Missed:

Children Are Wet Cement

Let’s Listen To Children

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With my Soul

A Grace Disguised

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

My Heart Will Go On

Anne Lamott: Best Day Ever

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

18 Holes Of Golf And 1,000 Sandwiches: Just Do It

Charlotte’s Web

IMG_0931

IMG_0861

I had the opportunity this past Tuesday to go to The Barter Theater, again with my lifelong friend, Kelly Read.

You have been my friend, that in itself is a tremendous thing.” Charlotte to Wilbur in the story of Charlotte’s Web

If you have never had the chance to visit this theater and the quaint Virginia town of Abingdon, please put it on your radar for a trip in the future.  Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Southwest Virginia, this town not only boasts of this great, old theater, but also the famous Virginia Creeper Trail. I like to joke and ask my husband again and again, “When can we move here!?!” Seriously, we love it!

IMG_0865
Kelly, Wilbur the pig, and me!

Charlotte’s Web is often called “the best children’s book of all time,” and occupies a special place in the hearts of young and old alike.IMG_0860

Along with busloads of school children, Kelly and I saw the play Charlotte’s Web.

IMG_0868
Templeton, the rat is from Newnan, Georgia!

As a retired teacher of elementary kids, I love this story for many reasons. One of the reasons is I read it aloud to my class every year. Another reason is during my one year of homeschooling, I read it along with Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little to Walker during his first grade in school. All of these timeless stories were written by E.B.White and illustrated by Garth Williams.

If I can fool a bug… I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.” Charlotte, the spider to Wilbur, the pig 

IMG_4728

I wrote a blog post earlier about spiders. Click here to check it out. And if you have ever wondered why White chose a spider for his protagonist in this magical story, click here to read some of his own words about this. E.B. White’s Newberry Honor book, Charlotte’s Web is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.

IMG_0857
Abingdon Library

I highly recommend you read these stories aloud to your children and grandchildren.

You should be able to find a copy in your local library where many locations offer free story times.

IMG_0862
Charlotte, the spider and me!

“Few people would guess that a pig and a spider could be best friends. In this story, not only are they best friends, but Charlotte, the spider saves Wilbur, the pig’s life. Charlotte takes a chance on Wilbur and goes on the most rewarding adventure of her life-friendship. And Wilbur, desperate for a friend, finds out that life is about more than just himself: it’s about helping those around you. Together, this unlikely duo changes the lives of every animal (and human) they meet.

Wilbur and Charlotte’s selflessness creates a better world. So does their bravery to be who they are. And their willingness to love each other unconditionally.

Take a chance on someone today. You may find that they’re terrific. Or radiant. Or humble. And they just might change your life.”

Director of the play, Charlotte’s Web, Barrett Guyton, Barter Theater

Abingdon, Virginia

IMG_4724

How Do We Describe Grief?

IMG_9189
This picture was taken on a hike with Taylor’s friends.

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9306
Taylor (left) with his buddy, Josh, since 2nd grade loved boarding!

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

IMG_9153
So thankful for these friends! Our Wedding Day on 10/2/1982.
IMG_6060
Daddy, Paul has floor play with Taylor and Meg.
IMG_6225
Baseball! Taylor with his cousins!

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9196 IMG_9197 IMG_9198 IMG_9199 IMG_9200 IMG_9201 IMG_9202 IMG_9203

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

IMG_6035
Donny and Paul…Taylor’s Shelter From The Storm
IMG_5869
The shelter sits beside the Holston River.

IMG_9190

IMG_6065
Kelly and Meg are bundled up for the ride.
IMG_6034
Lisa was such a big help in organizing the ride!
IMG_6033
T-SHIRTS!
IMG_6069
The Pages and The Reads are ready to roll!
IMG_9195
Donny with Taylor’s sign.
IMG_6079
The Ride!
IMG_6066
WE LOVE THE TRAIL!

IMG_9192

IMG_6099
What a group!
IMG_6103
Kelly, love her so much!
IMG_6102
Taylor’s Aunt Allison and cousin, Katherine weather the storm.
IMG_6100
Zach traveled from CA to be a part of the ride for Taylor!
IMG_9194
Thumbs Up with Zach and Josh upon their arrival to Taylor’s Shelter!
IMG_6166
Paul shares with the crowd at the dedication.

IMG_9188

IMG_6172
Great Friends Gather, while Mike and Greg photobomb!
IMG_6183
A great spot for Taylor’s Shelter!
IMG_6185
Becky and Leslie take time out at Taylor’s Shelter.
IMG_6189
This awesome place is right on the trail!
IMG_6215
After many meetings and a lot of effort, Kelly and Lisa give the day a “thumbs up”!
IMG_6209
Kelly and Joan at Taylor’s Shelter.
IMG_6211
Joan and Susan gather flowers from the BBQ lunch.

IMG_6192

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

IMG_9205
This portrait, a gift from Taylor’s friends is lovingly hung in The Read Home.
IMG_9275
Friend, Kelsey, takes time out in Taylor’s Shelter.

IMG_9274

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

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

IMG_9191
Kelly and Meg take time out in Taylor’s Shelter wrapped in a prayer shawl, a gift from precious friend, Ellen.

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

GriefOn the weekend of the ninth anniversary of my Mama’s passing on October 24, 2006, I wanted to share what I have learned are some of the best ways to help those who are grieving. Did you know? The definition of bereaved is “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death”.

People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, ‘Lord, teach me more compassion,’ but by going and seeking a person who needs compassion.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, an abolitionist)

You see, this fall also marks the passing of my Daddy, just two years ago. With both of my parents now gone, I have been encouraged by friends and family, alike.

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand…and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it therefore before it is too late.” Marie Edith Beynon

 I have grieved with my husband in the passing of his mother in 2010. We have stood with my sister’s family (2009) in the loss of their young adult son, Brad, and more recently we have joined our dear friends in Virginia in the loss of their 23 year old son, Taylor in early 2015.

In recent years, I have also had the privilege to support others in their grief journeys. A grief book that has helped me so much is called A Grace Disguised: How The Soul Grows Through Loss.

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved:

(1) Show Up. When you’re not sure what to do, simply be there.  Those who are grieving want to know you are praying for them and that you care about their loss. This calls for us to reach for courage in order to go to the hard place and love on those in need. Show up with attention and grace.

The people we love most do become a physical part of us.  When we lose them, be it by death or earthly separation, the sense of rupture is real and raw. Meghan O’Rourke

(2) Don’t worry if you don’t have the right words to say. My Mama used to tell me that if I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything, but to be physically present is always important.

(3) Remember them in the weeks and months ahead. Mark your calendar if necessary to remind yourself to drop them an encouraging note, text, or email. Share your memories of their beloved one. Mail a book, a small gift, or drop some banana bread by their home to let them know their loss has not been forgotten. Many who lose a loved one feel as though everyone else’s life is going on and they are stuck in this place of grief.

YOUR reaching out to them may be just what they need at a particular time.

(4) Speak their name. Never stop saying their loved one’s name. Some people may believe that speaking the deceased’s name will bring the survivors sadness, but instead there’s a good chance it will bring them joy as you remember their loved one by speaking his/her name often.

sculpture guardian angel

There are many additional ways to

come alongside and encourage those who are grieving.

What are some actions that have helped you

during your season of bereavement?

Joy Comes In the Morning

IMG_2278
I’ve always loved the name “Pamela”, since my niece Pamela, born in 1986 has been a special part of my life. So when this young homeless woman told me her name, I just smiled to myself.

The day was a sunny Sunday morning, March 15, 2015. I walked and walked in the beautiful city of San Diego, California, while my husband, Donny, attended a conference.   As I moved along, I hummed a favorite song, seeing the lyrics in my mind: Brave, by Sara Bareilles. Carrying my Bible close to my heart, my plans were to find a Presbyterian Church about one mile from our hotel and worship there at the 11:00 service. I soon discovered that instead, my day would be spent in “a church” on the streets of San Diego and not inside the walls of a building. Heavy-hearted, with my husband’s dear Dad on my mind with his recent hospitalization in the CCU with pneumonia, paired with grief over the very recent passing of the son of our precious friends the Reads, I sat on a bench to rest right outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the corner of 5th and K in the Gaslamp District. Weeping quietly, I took this picture of my Bible, my cup of hot coffee, and a San Diego map.

IMG_2270

Just after taking this picture, as I glanced to my right, I saw this woman standing alone right next to my bench. Homelessness is a concern in every big city across our great big world, and sunny San Diego is no exception. In fact, locals this past weekend told us countless times that the reason for their multitude of homeless folks is because of their year-round pleasant climate.

IMG_2217

I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free. Shanel Cooper Sykes

To help minimize panhandling on every corner, the local San Diego community installed meters like this one to collect pocket change to aid those without  a home. I thought this was a good idea to share with folks at MUST Ministries back in Georgia who work tirelessly to help the down and out in our hometown community. Many humans have similar thoughts regarding the homeless population, wondering how they got there, are they alcoholics or addicts, is mental illness a part of their day, and isn’t it “their fault” that they are in this situation? Raised by such compassionate parents, my heart has always been tender towards these souls in need. In fact, back in 2002, when Leah was in 8th grade, I taught her class all I knew about this subject, using Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise as a springboard. And after recently reading Yankoski’s story in the book Under the Overpass, my heart has become even softer towards these folks in need, believing “every heartbeat has a story.”

IMG_2324

I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. Mother Teresa

So when this woman showed up next to me, my response was not a surprise to me. And when she shared her name, Pamela, I smiled through my tears, understanding intuitively that her being there was no accident. Pamela is my niece’s name, the sister of my late nephew Brad (Brad’s story is here: 525,600 Minutes, Remembering Brad Today, Celebrate Me Home). Though Pam, all alone in this big city, did not approach me, I invited her to have a seat as I moved myself and my things over. Note: I am not looking for accolades with my story, I simply followed my heart like I do in most every circumstance I find myself in these days. Pam was not the only one who was in need, I was in need, as well, and I believe that was the reason she was placed in my path that day.  (See two recent past posts to understand this better: Choose Not To Be Blue and Choose Not To Be Blue: Part Two.)

IMG_2274

First things first, I figured she was hungry. She nodded. Waiting for our table at a quaint sidewalk cafe, I was moved by the irony of this pleasant young woman who would soon escort us to our table, quietly folding napkins for the many guests who would be by for a meal on this Sunday.

IMG_2271

As we sat across from each other, Pam told me her story. She was stranded in San Diego and needed to get back to Austin, Texas, she had no money to her name, and there was a safe home for her in Texas with her boyfriend and his mother. Though I did not tell her this, and I certainly wasn’t sure how the day would play out,  I knew by the time we finished our omelets that my husband and I would be her ticket back to Austin.

With a full stomach and a good break in the cafe’s clean restaurant bathroom, Pamela and I hit the sidewalk, first purchasing her a big backpack and then heading to nearby Macy’s. We went through several different departments, finding her new lingerie, t-shirts, jeans, and socks. Each time we made a purchase, the employee would snip off the tags, and Pam would slip back into the dressing room to change into her new things, coming out with an appreciative, humble smile on her face. Later, when Pastor Ike called me from Georgia, and I burst into tears telling him all about our friends who had lost their son and Donny’s Daddy, Pamela was the one who was consoling me, putting her arm around me and whispering how sorry she was for my sadness. I shared with Pastor Ike about who was standing next to me and he said, “Joan, that is exactly what I spoke about in my message this morning.” (Click Here to hear Pastor Ike Reighard’s message Passion For Compassion.)

We packed her backpack full, including her old, used, soiled things which went into a plastic bag until Pam would be able to find a way to wash them. An affordable ticket was purchased at a nearby Greyhound Bus Terminal and I left Pamela to wait until the 10:45 p.m departure. Just before 10:30 p.m., Donny and I were strolling around downtown with some friends from Georgia when I realized we were only a few minutes from the terminal. We said good night to our friends, and walked a few more minutes arriving in time for Donny to meet Pamela and for us to bid her farewell. Pamela’s trip would take 36 hours arriving mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and Pamela would call me to let me know she had arrived safely.

IMG_2277
Pamela was so appreciative to have her ticket to Austin, Texas.

Once again, I am reminded of The Boy and The Starfish Story, (click here to read it). It was an indisputable fact that my husband and I could not solve the huge problem of homelessness in San Diego, California, but we made a difference for that one beating heart—which at the same time made an even bigger difference for our own hurting hearts.

IMG_1641
Our annual TTU gathering, January 2015, Abingdon, Virginia in The Reads Home.
jessica + walker_0631
The Reads (far right) travel from VA to GA for Jessica and Walker Page’s wedding celebration on June 21, 2014. Some of our FF Group, The Beasley’s, Carters, Bowers and Pattersons are also pictured…friends since Fernbank Elementary!
Yes, weeping may endure for the night, but JOY does come with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Psalm 30:5 came true on the following day as the sun rose on Monday, March 16, 2015, starting with a long phone visit with my grieving friend in Virginia, Kelly, as I walked along the water, stopping in the loveliest places for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer.

One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.
One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.

Later, I was thankful to see pictures of my precious Tennessee Tech sisters loving our friends The Reads, as they represented our group at Taylor’s Celebration Service which I was able to watch on livestream.

IMG_2248
On March 14, 2015, friends watch a memory video with Kelly….girlfriends multiply JOY and divide SORROW.
IMG_2238
The prayer box which the eight of us gave to Kelly. Our initials are engraved inside to remind her that we are praying for her and her family.
IMG_2240
The card our group of eight gave to Kelly, Paul and Megan to remind them: “We’ve Got Your Back.”

That afternoon, though his wife, Annie had to work, our nephew, Evan, and their 14 month old son, Noah, was able to drive a short distance to meet us at the beautiful Torrie Pines Reserve. Again I was struck by irony: grieving with our friends over the loss of their son…while watching this beautiful boy’s journey begin.

IMG_2299
JOY overflowing as we visited with these two precious ones, my brother John’s firstborn and Evan and Annie’s firstborn, Noah James Walker, age 14 months.

As we continue to pray for healing for our Dad, Don, and peace for our friends The Reads, our faith reminds us to be brave.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 "For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."
Song of Solomon 2:11-12 “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

 How is your journey calling for bravery today?

Is it a health decision, a relationship that needs mending,

a courageous conversation that would be difficult, but beneficial for all?

542542_3471554673250_2071665757_n IMG_2297