Thanksgiving 2018 comes early this year! November 22, 2018. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. It is Thanksgiving Week and I am wondering what this annual holiday means to you. I wrote this blog post on Thanksgiving 2014.
I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.
My husband, Donny and I were checking in for a flight. We were headed to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our son and his wife for Easter Weekend, 2018. Outside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, we encountered a massive crowd of very young men and women. Dressed out in full U.S. Army gear climbed off a bus carrying heavy and huge dufflebags, one in each hand. Just seeing them made my heart sing with American Pride. “Thank you for your service!”, I said repeatedly as we made our way through the multitude.
“Are you in this group, this Army Unit?”, I asked a young woman in front of us. She was also entangled in the masses. Answering me, she exclaimed quickly, “Oh, no, I am not that brave.”
As we patiently made our way past these youthful servicemen and servicewomen, I considered this girl’s words. I reflected on how many souls walking around among us consider themselves less than brave. I know that up until recently, I have spent decades feeling less than brave. Nevertheless, I am changing. I hope you will be inspired after you read this post. Inspired to make a change, too. Perhaps you will be more courageous, as well.
The weekend of December 9, 2017, we attended the funeral of a warrior woman by the name of Jule Furr. I had known ‘Jules’ for years and was well aware of her four decade battle with cancer. At age fifty-four, Jule went on ahead leaving behind her precious family. After hearing stories of my friend on that frigid, snowy Georgia day, I decided I wanted to be more brave. You can read my post about this friend, Fighter Jule Furr Takes Her Leave, here.
February 9-10, 2018, my friend, Julie invited me to attend a nearby Women’s Conference. An IF:Gathering.
The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom.
Author, Annie F. Downs
Sometimes things happen when we least expect it. Thankfully as a Christ follower, when things come up, I can be sure to trust in God for direction. At this meeting, I heard a well-known speaker for the first time. This speaker, Annie F. Downs also has an inspiring podcast that I have been listening to. “That Sounds Fun With Annie F. Downs” is what it is called.
From my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, it felt like Annie F. Downs was speaking straight to me. Two decades younger than myself, Annie spoke about many things I had grown to know and understand. My ears perked up when she began to emphasize “being brave”. You see, I had already felt my God wooing me, calling me (though not audibly <smile>) with His still, small voice to be brave about some specific circumstance in my life journey. It had become a stronghold in my days. It was something that was taking more than it was adding to my days. This something needed to be addressed if I was planning to have a purposeful and fulfilling life between now and dead.
Now, my particular situation is irrelevant to you as a reader of this post. (‘Cause it’s personal, ya know!) Therefore, I do want to encourage you, to look inside, to look at how you could be more brave with some specific circumstances that are unique to you. ‘Cause somehow, I don’t believe I am the only human that has lacked courage in making a needed change.
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!
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.
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.'
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 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.
With both of our two grown children, married in 2014, with homes of their own, pulling these two trees out again in 2017 symbolizes to us that we are starting new traditions at our house.
New Traditions…perhaps that is your thought, as well. Finding that “new normal”, whatever that is…This might be the first Christmas since someone you love dearly passed away in recent months, perhaps someone important to you is very ill this holiday season, or your loved one is far away from you this Christmas.
The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree, those gifts are friends, faith, family and the one you love.” Anonymous
Last December, I was mulling around our attic trying to come up with some Christmas decor that I no longer need. I filled up a big box to haul to the M.U.S.T. Ministries Donation Center, hopefully in plenty of time for some folks to find them and use them in their own homes this Christmas. While up there, a mystery pursued. There were 2 cardboard boxes both marked lightly with an ink pen “Christmas Tree”. I knew that our family had a small ceramic Christmas tree when I was growing up and I remember as a little girl plugging it in every year.
Being from a family of six children, I was delighted to have this tree in my home. I had not, however, before this year, taken the time to unbox it since it was placed in my attic with my other Christmas things. My Mama passed on October 24, 2006, and this was the year I would light the tree in our own home! The mystery was that there were two of them. When I had a chance to ask Donny, he started remembering that when his mother was near death in 2010, she kept asking him, “Did you get the Christmas tree?’ He comforted her by telling her that he had gotten it, but he was not completely sure that we had. You see, his Mom lived in South Florida and became very ill in mid-February 2010. Donny, Walker and I had to drive her from here to Marietta along with as many of her things that we could fit in two cars, and we weren’t sure if the tree was there. Many boxes were placed in the attic after her passing on March 6, 2010. This year, the discovery of the Christmas trees was made. The trees are identical, both reminding us of our dear Mothers who gave us life, love, nurturing, laughter, and planted our roots deep. Though the second tree was not from Donny’s childhood, both trees now serve as a symbol of love and strength as we remember our mothers at Christmas and always.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers.”
The holiday season has come and gone and ours was very full, as I am sure yours was, as well. Here are a few pictures to illustrate some of my highlights:
I know you have special photos of your moments with friends and family and I am hoping you might share them in the comment space below!
Having been around for nearly six decades, the whole subject of New Year’s Resolutions causes me to yawn. What is the use of them? What is the benefit of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves in a world that already has enough stress as it is? Now, don’t get me wrong! I do believe in goals and change and progressing towards a better life. But I have also learned, that for me, anyway, that it is more about the journey itself than it is about the destination. I want to be kinder to myself, more compassionate towards my fellow humans, and more faithful to my God.
Here are a few things that I found on social media that caused me to pause, to be still for a moment, and consider how I want to navigate into this new year: 2017.
So, I encourage you, along with me to say:
‘THANK YOU for being in my life, and helping me to continue to learn, to grow, and to smile past the struggles, while counting my blessings.”
Thanks to all of you out there who follow my Pages From Joan. Please help me this year by sharing any posts that resonate with your heart.
Woman must come of age by herself...she must find her true center alone.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From The Sea
No matter my age, or season of life, the beach, for me, is always a vacation for the soul. This past Monday, just two weeks before my 58th birthday and two months before our 34th wedding anniversary, I jumped on a yellow bike, rode one mile, and soon found myself with my feet in the sand, rereading parts of one of my all-time favorite books: Gift From The Sea, by, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. You can get a paperback copy for less than $6.00, by clicking on Amazon Prime.
Like my Bible, every time I put my nose in this book, depending on my current circumstances or season, nuggets of wisdom pour into my life. This Monday afternoon was no exception.
If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
You see, as I reread my book on the sandy beach of Amelia Island, I decided I am moving into the Argonauta Stage (an argonauta, paper nautilus is a beach-world certain rare creature who is not fastened to its shell at all) as illustrated so beautifully by Lindbergh. Lindbergh wrote this journal-style book, this manuscript in 1955, thinking she was writing only for herself and her own growth. While I do not keep a journal these days, I can relate to Lindbergh’s keeping a diary, her time spent with introspection.
I kept a personal journal for over two decades and rereading these through the years has been very cathartic for me. As it turns out, her musings have helped countless people, albeit, mainly women, in all walks of life. This author gives the gift of herself as she relates to us as women, moms and wives. Whether you are a young single woman, a married woman with small people, yet to raise, have a special woman in your life, or are like me, a fifty-something woman with children gone and married, there is some nugget for you in this book. Here are a few of the points Lindbergh makes that spoke directly to me during this particular season of my journey:
“Is the golden fleece that awaits us some kind of new freedom for growth? And in this new freedom, is there any place for a relationship? I believe there is, after the oyster bed, an opportunity for the best relationship of all: not a limited, mutually exclusive one, like the sunrise shell; and not a functional, dependent one, as in the oyster bed; but the meeting of two whole fully developed people as persons.” (page 93)
“Woman must come of age by herself… She must find her true center alone.” (page 96)
“The relation of two sisters is not that of a man and a woman. But it can illustrate the essence of relationships. The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.” (page 99)
“A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules… Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined. When the heart is flooded with love there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation. (page 104-106)
“…each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.” (page 110)
Should you take the time to pick up this book while visiting the shore, please tell us about your favorite parts in the comment space below or on my Facebook Page.
If you have not taken the time to “like” my Pages From Joan page on Facebook, please do today! If you enjoy a post, share it with the ones you love. Make TODAY a blessed day.
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance
And if you cannot get away to the shore or need to plan a ‘staycation’ at home, try some of these ideas, pictured below from the June 2016 issue of the O Magazine.
Having been a teacher for nearly ten years, I recall with fondness groups of children filing into a packed cafeteria and carefully stepping up onto risers before breaking out into “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”. Their smiles, their laughter, and their voices are all engraved on my heart forever. Following is a story I have heard throughout the years and I believe it bears repeating:
The “W” in Christmas
Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations – extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.
Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as “Christmas,” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment – songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son’s class rose to sing, “Christmas Love,” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in the front row center stage – held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter C. Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down – totally unaware her letter “M” appeared as a “W”. The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W”.
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: “CHRISTWAS LOVE”
And, I believe, He still is.
The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
― Garrison Keillor
It’s time to put away our Christmas ornaments and Santa Clauses until next year. It’s time to stack up the many loving and cheerful cards we received from our friends and family in the past four weeks. Donny and I were able to go through former Georgia Governor Roy and Marie Barnes home during the 2014 Marietta Pilgrimage in early December, and I learned two tips related to Christmas cards that I wanted to pass onto you.
-Take advantage of the after Christmas sales and pick up some wide, sturdy, and festive ribbon. As you can see here, the ribbon hangs well from a door frame to clip or pin the cards to. with small decorative clips or simple straight pins. The cards are easy to see and on display throughout the holiday season.
I bought these cute Santa clips at an Intown Ace in Atlanta, that has the most wonderful gift section and the tiny green clips, as well as the large rings were purchased at Michaels.
-Take a few minutes to punch a hole in each card and place the cards together in a wide ring. These can be displayed on your coffee table year after year as part of your Christmas decor.
When you stop opening presents and listen, love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas” – Author unknown
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things give off the greatest glow of happiness.” – Bob Hope
[pullquote] For it is giving that we receive.” Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), an Italian Catholic friar and preacher[/pullquote]If we all went out and purchased just ONE toy for a girl or for a boy, just think what a difference that would make for all of the charities that are stretching to meet the many needs of families struggling to bring Christmas 2014 to their home. When I picked out this wash and dry dish set, I imagined my little girl, now age 26, playing with it. Perhaps you will want to do the same…pick out and donate one toy that your son or daughter, niece or nephew might have loved when they were small. If you still have children at home, let them pick out a special something for a child their age.
Each one reach one. Together, we CAN make a difference. Many local churches are having toy drives, and ours is no exception. Piedmont has little green Christmas trees with gift ideas for kids in need. These gifts will go to the MUST Ministries Toy Shop which is close to us. If you live in another part of Atlanta or even another state, you might want to check out The Marines Toys for Tots Foundation or Christmas Toy Drive which partners with Salvation Army to help get toys in the hands of parents who need a hand up this Christmas. [pullquote]To ease another’s heartache is to forget ones own.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U.S. President[/pullquote]
“Volunteers and staff who work in the MUST toy shop during the month of December claim every family has a gripping story of need and a heart of gratitude toward the miraculous help received.” (taken from the MUST website).
MUST is hoping to have all toy donations in the shop by Saturday, December 20, 2014.
MUST expects to serve up to 4,000 children this Christmas. The need is great.
Food, clothing, toys and all other donations are accepted at the MUST Donation Center five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 am-5 pm. The Donation Center is located in the Chastain Place Office Park 55 Chastain Road NW Suite 110, Kennesaw, GA 30144.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank (1929-1945), a diarist, a writer , and one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon. Dr. Seuss
Though this post was originally penned in 2014, this list of nine ideas still applies today. I am looking to take care of myself this December, and I hope you will, too.
Our fresh, nine foot Christmas tree is beautiful and smells amazing. When we picked it out on Sunday, we had the folks at the Calvary Children’s Home tree lot cut the end off so the tree would be even fresher. As we all know, it is important to water a freshly cut tree daily to ensure that the needles stay in place until we ring in the new year on December 31, 2014. As I watered the tree again this morning, it made me think about ways you and I can take better care of ourselves during this season.
Nine ways to take care of YOU in December:
(1) Start your day with breakfast. Donny and I have gotten to where we must have a green smoothie as often as possible to help us jumpstart our day. (** see bottom of post for our smoothie instructions.)
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. a Chinese Proverb
(2) Exercise often. Studies have shown that even a 20-30 minute walk can change the way you feel.
(4) Practice deep breathing in the car, in bed just before you rise, anytime, anyplace. (The 4-7-8 exercise: breathe in for count of 4, hold for a count of 7, breathe out for a count of 8, emptying lungs completely. Repeat.)
(5) Practice your faith on a regular basis. Reading my Bible helps me to keep my life in perspective. *There are many free on-line devotions we can connect with. My friend and college roomie, Susan, lives near Knoxville, Tennessee. Susan and I both read My Utmost for His Highest regularly and frequently email or text about something we have read. Our small group meets weekly in my girlfriend Sara’s home, and we are currently studying 1 Thessalonians. We all agree that the more we read and discuss, the thirstier we are for more study. You may consider reading a Proverbs a day. There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and there is so much wisdom to be found there. For example today, December 3, Proverbs 3:5-6 speaks to my heart and encourages me:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him. and he will make your paths straight.”
(6) Make and keep a running list. It feels great to mark things off!
(7) Call a friend to share what’s on your mind. Life is full, difficult, and challenging. Sharing what is on our hearts with a trustworthy friend can be very cathartic.
If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it. George Burns (1896-1996) an American comedian, actor, and writer
(8) Reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves. I try to have $1 bills or a few coins on hand to insert into The Salvation Army’s red bucket when I hear the ringing bell. That small act makes my heart happy.
(9) Make yourself a cup of hot tea, put your feet up and rest, if even for a few minutes OR take a few minutes out for a hot bath.
As you nurture your tree by watering it, consider ways you can take good care of yourself, too. It is my belief that if we consider doing these nine things, our December will be a little calmer.
** Our smoothie consists of kale, celery, cucumber, orange, apple, 3 kinds of berries (use fresh or frozen), banana, steel cut oatmeal, flaxseed meal, unsweetened almond milk, and coconut water. I don’t follow a recipe, I just use what I have on hand. These can be poured into a solo cup, covered with foil with a straw and ready to grab as you walk out the door. We have found the fridge shelf life for these is about 2 1/2 days.