Peace Of Thread

This past weekend, my family surprised me by celebrating my early August birthday since we won’t be together on my day. We had fun just hanging out, making a shrimp boil dinner together, eating cake and making homemade Oreo ice cream. YUM!

Whenever our two children ask me what I would like for a gift, I mainly say, “Just a note from you.”

I consider the notes and cards I have accumulated over the years as great treasures in my life. I enjoy looking over them again and again.

Single brown package tied with string on a wood background[pullquote]

Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other- it doesn’t matter who it is- and that will help us all to grow in greater love for each other.”

Mother Teresa


Leah also gave me a small wrapped package, a gift in which I have truly grown attached to as I have researched the origin of this love gift. A small bag just big enough for my cell phone, my license, and some cash, was handmade by an Artisan Threader, from Iraq, by the name of Ameena. Leah knew I would love this special and unique gift because I am always looking for little and big ways to make a difference.

My own unique, one-of-a kind Peace of Thread bag!

“Four years ago, Denise Smith had just returned from six years with her husband and their jobs in Beirut. Life in Lebanon had left her feeling out of place back in Georgia. She pondered and prayed on what meaning her life might take when her church, Grace (Snellville) called her and asked if she would come speak to a group of refugee women, most of whom only spoke Arabic.
She agreed and began to ponder and pray on what she could offer them. The plan revealed itself in her trusty old sewing machine. “I took it everywhere with me,” says Denise. “I am never without it.”

Denise first called the manager of the apartment building that housed many of the women. “I asked if they might be interested in learning to sew,” says Denise. “His enthusiastic answer was, ‘YES!’”. Denise made some calls to friends to gather scraps of fabric and ended up with a few sewing machines as well.

That first meeting began a journey that became the answer to many prayers. The prayers of women who have fled horrific conditions and only want one small opportunity to make a living, raise good children and BE American, as well as the prayers of a woman who wanted to know what she should do with herself. Peace of Thread was born of these prayers.

The designer accessories company provides training, language lessons, fellowship and jobs for women who have made their way from upheaval and threat to a place they can breathe and make a new life out of the patches of their former selves. The words from their website read: “Peace of Thread is a not for profit organization that empowers women who have come to the United States seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty to make a new life for themselves and their family. The women of Peace of Thread hand make high quality and one-of-a-kind accessories using top-of-the-line, refurbished fabric. Their mission is to “promote the exchanging of cultures and the international development of women in vulnerable populations by teaching and improving life, business, and language skills through the platform of designing and sewing “one-of-a-kind” purses, bags, and accessories using re-purposed materials and to engage in activities which are necessary.”

Founder, Denise Smith seeks to bring Eastern and Western women together to foster fellowship and peace. “Women need work to contribute to their economy and support their families,” says Denise. Through sewing and mending, the physical, emotional and spiritual pieces of each woman are mended as well. “God is peace and we are all people of peace,” says Denise. “Each of these women want just one small chance to learn a craft and be able to contribute to their household needs.”

The INSIDE of my bag!

We show the beauty of each woman by designing the inside of each bag even more beautifully than the outside and teach the women that they were designed in this very same way.”

Denise Smith,

Founder and CEO of Peace of Thread

The back of my bag.

The need for sponsors is endless. Each woman who enters the program is given a sewing machine, thread, needles, patterns and scraps of fabric. The majority of the fabric comes from the Atlanta Decorative Art Center and are scraps from the finest interior design products in the world. Parisian silks, Belgium patterns and countless more of the world’s loveliest fabrics are cast aside after becoming pillows, upholstery, and curtains. These incredible fabric scraps are designed and sewn into amazing bags that show the heart and soul of the artist. “To turn our bags inside out, you will find beautifully appointed fabrics that complement each other,” says Denise. “They are just like the women who sew them, beautiful inside and out.” (and truly the small bag Leah gave to me is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside)

Inside the pockets of each bag is tucked a card that tells the story of each artisan. “Six of our women have graduated Level 12 English which means they can read to their own child a story or understand the papers that come home from school,” says Denise. “Education is power for the formerly unemployable.” Each woman has a means for an income and desire to live “West alongside East”. “By understanding the gaps in culture, the women shed fears and become good American Citizens,” says Denise. “They will not be going back to their birth countries, so they need to belong here.”




Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.”

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)


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Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

Booker T. Washington, (1856-1915)


Remaining true to her mission and relying on prayer, Denise Smith and her volunteers work hard to ensure that those who want to find a way to support themselves and their families are able to do so. Volunteers are needed for all manner of roles. Watching the children of the trainees during classes is important. Transportation to the training center is always needed. “You don’t need to know how to sew in order to help,” says Denise. “We can always use more volunteers.” To order a bag or learn how you can help, visit the website,” (from a recent Gwinnett Citizen article by Beth Volpert-Johansen, click here to read more)

Purchasing bags straight off their website for yourself and for gifts can have a huge impact.

Located in Clarkston, Georgia, some of the volunteer opportunities mentioned on their website include:
selects fabrics for making bags; is familiar with different kinds of fabrics and textiles and/or has sewing knowledge.

Design Cutter
uses patterns to cut the fabric after it has been selected by a designer.

Design Organizer
organizes and categorizes fabrics according to style and seasons, or cuts pieces of fabric for scraps and to make business cards; keeps the design studio organized and in a clean manner.

Pattern Detailer
ensures that patterns are cut properly and that instructions are clearly labeled on them.

How about you and I?

How are we impacting those in our daily path in small or big ways? As I have said many times before, even a smile or a kind word to someone we cross paths with can brighten a day…potentially theirs AND ours.

Are you still looking for your “purpose“, the way or ways you can make a positive difference with this one life you’ve been given???

Let’s all start today in our own families, then moving beyond as we feel led.

This story about how Denise Smith founded Peace of Thread inspires me to reach out more to those less fortunate than me, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Splendid Serendipitous SPAIN

While I do my best to share blog posts that are a reasonable length, I am putting up a disclaimer regarding the one you are about to read: THIS IS A LONG POST! Hope you enjoy joining me on our recent tour through SPAIN!IMG_4396

On Wednesday, July 1st, we enjoyed a full day at sea on our ship, as well as our only “formal night” for dinner. As you can see, we opted for our gentlemen to be comfortable in no neckties and open collars!

Jessica and Walker married on June 21, 2014.
Scott and Leah married on March 29, 2014.

One of our favorite places to meet before dinner was the Lawn area on the back of the boat. The real, soft, green grass was beautiful and we enjoyed many moments here. The two pairs of newlyweds enjoy comfy chairs on the Lawn area of the ship.

At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 2, 2015 our ship docked on the Spanish Island of Palma de Mallorca with plans to stay anchored for a full two days. On this first day in Spain, we took advantage of the SpaClub Port Pricing discount scheduling massages for all. Afterwards, four of us ventured  off the ship to check out our new spot. Donny, Jess, Walker and I found a good place to enjoy a cappuccino. Yum! On our second port day on the beautiful island of Palma de Mallorca, we decided to join a bike tour with James. Though is was definitely a hot day for three + hours of biking, we all enjoyed learning about the island’s history as we followed James and explored the area. [pullquote]To have courage for whatever comes in life-everything lies in that.” Saint Teresa of Avila, a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic Saint (1515-1582)[/pullquote]

The main memories we will carry with us of Palma de Mallorca is how this Balearic city is a backdrop of towering cathedrals, ancient castles, and a magnificent harbor with endless rows of boats and yachts.

A Cup of Cappuccino on the Island of Palma de Mallorca in Spain
A bike tour led by James, pictured here in front of The Cathedral, built in the 13th century. The Cathedral has picturesque stained glass windows and the world’s largest rose window.

Getting our larger pieces of luggage into the hallway outside our cabins by 11 p.m. was quite a feat, but we did it, and we were all looking with great anticipation for our disembarkment the following day. On Saturday, the 4th of July, 2015, our great big ship, the Equinox dropped the six of us off in Barcelona, Spain. As our driver met us just off the ship, looking at all of our luggage, our guide, Ona quipped, “Are you moving to Spain?” We laughed and Leah admitted she was an overpacker. Ona encouraged her by reminding us that Spain was very small compared to the U.S., and that with life, Leah would become more of a minimalist. There was much to see in the short time we would be in Barcelona, so we got moving once everything was loaded in the car. As we rode along, Ona began to share with us all about her beloved city. Barcelona occupies 1.7 million in this very compact, seaside city. The three main parts of the city are: inside the city walls, the modern city and the other parts. The original city walls, built in the 1300’s, were dismantled to build the modern city.

We were all surprised (including our driver and our guide, Ona) that the start of our Barcelona tour found crowds gaping up to the top of a very tall building. Stretching our own necks from inside the SUV, we soon made a shocking discovery: a naked man was taking selfies up atop this building! The traffic stopped as everyone waited to see if he would be “rescued”. Thankfully, he was, and we went on our way, laughing and laughing. What a funny way to start our first visit ever to this great city!

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Our first stop was the SI JOSEP LA BOQUERIA Market, and this market truly had everything imaginable available…fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats of every kind! Even COW tongue as pictured below! I don’t even want to know how one would prepare that for consumption! Wish I could ask Julia Child! There were some of the biggest tomatoes, strawberries, and whole fish for purchase. This was an amazing and busy place!


The entrance to the biggest and busiest market I have ever seen!
Seriously? Cow Tongue in Barcelona for sale at the SI JOSEP LA BOQUERIA Market

Ona soon left us for lunch at a sidewalk cafe.

A simple Spanish addition to a meal. Crusty, fresh bread smeared with a ripe tomato, some olive oil and a bit of garlic. YUM!
Most everyone ordered this delectable Spanish dish: Paella, for our lunch in Barcelona.
Leah’s Paella Lunch in Barcelona, Spain
Sangria and ice cold Spanish beer in Barcelona as we waited for our paella.
New Friends in Barcelona, Spain. The girls, Lisa, in orange, Brunetta, center and Misty, right, all work for the St. Louis Board of Education in the Transportation Department. They enjoy their summers off with lots of traveling, spending 4th of July 2014 in Paris, France!

At lunch is where I met three gals from America, from St. Louis in fact, Walker and Jessica’s current hometown. It was fun meeting and chatting with Brunetta, Lisa, and Misty, who were sitting at the table right next to us enjoying their Spanish lunches.

After lunch, it was time for our appointment to visit the famous church in Barcelona.

The Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s most famous symbol and certainly one of its most impressive sights. The church is such a massive size, so it is often referred to as a “cathedral”, but without a bishop’s seat. Pope Benedict XVI. inaugurated the Sagrada Familia on November 7, 2010. The church building was then raised to a basilica.

The angels and the three wise men during the birth of Christ. “Wise men and women still seek Him.”
Ona, our guide explains the most recent progression in the building of this famous structure. Having grown up in Barcelona, she has watched it grow throughout her lifetime.
The Fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
Mary, Joseph, and their child.
Still under construction: the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
The Sagrada Familia
Construction began on the Sagrada Familia in 1882 and continues today. Barcelonians are hopeful to see this magnificent structure to its completion in the year 2026.

The construction for this church in the district Eixample began in 1882, and is supposed to be finished in 2026. From 1883 the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí took over the leadership of the works until his death in 1926, when he was stuck by a tram, carried to the hospital, and mistaken as a beggar. The building is significantly influenced by Gaudi. We were all enthralled by the bright-colored windows and the details in this amazing structure. We especially enjoyed seeing all of the many biblical stories we found hidden there.
With the expected completion in 2026, the construction is financed solely from donations and ticket money. Currently, 8 out of 12 about 100 meters tall bell towers are completed. The higher towers of the facade of the glory and the central dome with a height of over 170 meters will be built. Currently, part of the cloister and the apse are getting built.

The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Construction first began in 1882 and continues today in hopes to be completed by 2026. Overr 2.5 million people visit Sagrada Familia each year and the donation and ticket sales are what keeps this project alive.
The S.E. Catedral Basilica

We also had the chance to see where the 1992 Olympics were held, just four years before the Olympics came to our beloved, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In addition, on our busy and full day in Barcelona, we saw the Museu Picasso, the Sacrista De La Catedral, the S.E. Catedral, and an old Jewish Synogogue.

Originating in the 6th century, the Ancient Synagogue in the Serafad neighborhood is believed to be an old synagogue located in the center of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. This was one of the smallest and most fascinating places we visited with two rooms and many, many interesting artifacts. A nice trip in Jewish History, it has been described as one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. After many centuries of use for other purposes, the building re-opened as a synagogue and museum in 2002. No congregation prays regularly at the Sinagoga Major, but it is used for festive occasions.

The Sinagoga Major, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Spain. Guides speak Spanish, English and Hebrew. This place is rich in Jewish history with many artifacts.

The Picasso Museum is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Picasso. The genius of the young artist is revealed through the 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection. Furthermore, the Picasso museum, opened in 1963, also reveals his deep relationship with Barcelona: an intimate, solid relationship that was shaped in his adolescence and youth, and continued until his death.The Picasso museum is very rich in regard to work from the formative years in the life of the artist; it is practically exhaustive up to the Blue Period. The Museum also houses an important representation of works from 1917, and the series Las Meninas (1957) as well as a comprehensive print collection. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through this art museum!

Portrait d'un profil de femme  la manire de Picasso.
“un profile de femme a la manière de Picasso”, one of the multitudes of painting we discovered in the Museu Picasso. Picasso’s creativity knew no bounds. His art transformed the 20th century. His talents were first discovered at age 13. Later he went on to co-found Cubism.

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

A view of the stunning city of Barcelona, Spain!

We ended our tour of this magnificent city with a drive up a mountain for an aerial view of the fabulous city of Barcelona, Spain.

Scott’s King Crab dinner in Barcelona, Spain.
Dinner in Barcelona, Spain

Our last evening in Europe, we walked to a quaint, local restaurant and enjoyed a delightful Spanish dinner there. Scott especially enjoyed his choice of King Crab! Our waiter brought a live crab to the table for Scott to “approve” before it was prepared in the kitchen. After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, Hotel Murmuri Barcelona to prepare for our long flight home the following morning. The family humored me one more time by donning these stars and stripes caps in the hotel, because it was, after all, THE FOURTH OF JULY!



I want a faith that’s so alive it can be seen. I want a hope that cannot hide even when I am weak. I want a love that speaks the truth of what I believe.”

Building 429 “Set A Fire”


The six of us will carry countless memories with us as we go forward in our life journey. One of my most treasured memories will be this: as we shared dinner on the ship, we joined hands and took turns saying grace before we started our meal. On one particular night, a waiter came up to our table after our blessing and told us he had rarely, if ever seen passengers on the ship stop and pray before their meal. He went on to tell us that he led a small group Bible Study on the ship with his fellow staff members. That was a priceless moment for us all.

This memory I have shared above makes me want to also share the lyrics and video in which I found the quote: “I want a faith that’s so alive…” so click here to watch: SET A FIRE!

Now closing the books on our European Adventure, I will share in my next post entitled Peace Of Thread, about a small early birthday gift Leah gave to me this past weekend.

In case you missed my last two posts on ITALY and FRANCE, click here and here to find them.

Invigorating Intriguing ITALY

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!

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.


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.

This angel on the side of the enormous Duomo is believed to watch over and protect the city of Florence.
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.

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.

How To Respond To Travel Stress


“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.”

Stephen Covey, (1932-2012) Author  of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One of my favorite books that I find myself referring to again and again is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book came to mind again on the first full day of our recent trip abroad.

After a two-hour delay at the Atlanta International Terminal, followed by an all night flight to Rome, Italy, paired with a six-hour time change, our first stop was to the Baggage Claim area to collect our many bags. It didn’t take long to discover that Leah’s green Nine West checked bag had been taken by another passenger by accident, while leaving an identical bag behind. Leah and I made our way to the Lost and Found counter to speak with representatives who knew very little English. “Switch!”, “Switch!”, they kept saying loudly to each other as they waved their hands while smiling encouragingly at us. Copying our Celebrity Equinox Cruise Itinerary, they promised to keep making attempts to track Leah’s bag as we left the airport with our driver.

Understandably frustrated, Leah vowed to not allow these circumstances to damper her excitement about our adventure. This made me think of Chuck Swindoll’s famous writing on Attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

More than 50 hours later, when Leah’s suitcase was finally delivered to their cabin on the ship, Jessica suggested we raise our glasses and toast Leah at dinner for staying positive as she awaited the arrival of most of the clothes/shoes she had packed for our trip. WE all agreed wholeheartedly!

Leah shops for undies in Florence, Italy.

During this experience of traveling inconvenience, I thought of a few  good things to remember :

  • Mark all checked suitcases well. While Leah’s was marked with an ID tag, it was still taken by accident. Let’s all double-check all bags before walking away from baggage claim. We couldn’t believe this other party actually left the airport before they realized they had picked up a bag marked with someone else’s name.
  • Things don’t always turn out the way you hope or expect. While this (in the grand scheme of things)turnedoutto be more of an inconvenience than a major obstacle, our attitude and responsereallycanmake a difference in how we walk through the circumstances. If Leah had chosen to have a full-out negative response about this missing bag,thiscould’ve rippled out among our group of six. Instead, Leah made a choice to say, “Oh well, hopefully this will work out soon.” and then move on to the fun of our CruisingAdventurethatwas scheduled to begin that day in Rome, Italy at 5:00 p.m.
    Our Itinerary. Even though Leah wasn’t sure if her suitcase would ever be returned to her, she made an intentional decision to carry on, looking ahead to the amazing adventure that was before us.
  • Even in trying circumstances and especially when there is a language barrier, it is good to remember that ALL PEOPLE SMILE IN THE SAME LANGUAGE. So when we make an intentional choice to smile through our challenges,ourresponsecan be contagious and may lead to more smiles, no matter what language one may speak.
    While it is common to see a black suitcase on the baggage claim turnstile, it is less common to see a black suitcase with a wide hot pink strap around it.
    This green and gold bow tied tightly around a handle serves as an “ID” for a weary transatlantic traveler looking for a bag on the turnstile.
    Thank goodness Leah’s suitcase arrived in time for her to wear Scott’s favorite dress to dinner one night.

    Do you mark your suitcase in some special way

    before you head out for a trip on a plane?

    If not, why not?

    How do you respond when things don’t go as you hoped or planned?

    Have you heard of Swindoll’s writing on Attitude?

    Will reading it impact how you may

    consider your own attitude in the future?

    It has been noted that Swindoll wrote this after he noticed his growing testy, argumentative attitude towards his young children and wife. He knew that if he didn’t give himself an attitude adjustment regarding his four children, he stood the chance of alienating them from himself, later becoming a lonely, bitter, and crotchety old man.

    Are you and I in need of an attitude adjustment?Let's Start

  • “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:2-4; 12

Honesty With The Truest Of Friends


A dear friend of mine, Sara, has been wise to remind me of an important truth for the past three decades of my life: “It is good to share your heart and your deepest desires with a friend, but choose these friends with care and never feel like you must share your heart with everyone.” Only the truest of friends should have the right to hear what your heart has to say.

Having always been an individual who tends to “go deep” with others fairly quickly, I have had to guard against inadvertently going deep with an untrustworthy person. Many years ago, when I was a young mom, as well as a small group Bible Study leader, I roomed with an acquaintance at a leader’s retreat. Assuming we would surely make friends as we shared a room for the weekend, I mistakenly shared with her one of my heart concerns. While I don’t know if she chose to tell anyone else what I shared in trust with her, afterwards, I felt judged and condemned by this weekend roommate. I still recall easily how her response made me feel, and needless to say, she and I never became close friends.

You always pass failure on the way to success. Mickey Rooney, American Actor

I learned that I would likely fail at some friendships before I found success in the many delightful, intimate friendships I enjoy today.

In these close friendships, I believe there must be a certain amount of trust, and yes, even honesty. Being honest is an important step in becoming friends. Two of my precious girlfriends I have known since grade school and I had a chance to “while away a summer day” recently. In swimsuits, comfy chairs, and refreshing Lake Blue Ridge as our view, we three went deep, as we so often do. With gentleness, respect, and honesty, we said “I LOVE YOU” to each other by sharing our observed concerns about an aspect of each of our lives. As one of the three of us quipped, we took turns sitting in the “hot seat.” We all three agreed that cheaper than therapy, friends can definitely be a sounding board for each other. If done with love, honesty and kindness can go hand-in-hand.

Being honest with a friend can be a kind gesture, even though the content of this gesture might not always be flattering. While I won’t discuss the subject of what we three opened up about, I will say that initially, I found myself becoming defensive, until I considered these girls cared about me greatly and have loved me for many decades. IMG_5626Therefore, chances were good that what was being candidly discussed was meant to be for our good and not to hurt us. As I remembered their love for me, this served to also remind me that TRUE friendship consists of friends bravely being truthful with each other. I believe that often we humans are afraid to be completely honest. We therefore sometimes wear masks to hide true feelings of insecurity or neediness. We three girlfriends accepted the comments made to each other and were all grateful for each of us having the courage to express concerns transparently and openly.

We are possessive of our innermost thoughts. We don't want just anyone listening in. Rebecca McClanahan, Author of Write Your Heart Out

In the end, there were our usual big hugs and “I love yous” all around as we jumped in the lake to swim the cove and float. I know I gained something very important from our time together, and I believe they did, too. I will not be able to improve if I don’t know what I am doing wrong. AWARENESS is such a big step towards positive change. We must dare to face the difficult-to-hear messages of well-intended criticism.

Billy Joel: HONESTY

To earn a friend’s trust and respect, let’s intentionally say what we mean and mean what we say.

In addition, let’s hold our true friends (and especially what they choose to bravely share with us)

with BOTH hands, as well as close to our hearts.

How about you?

Is there something you’ve been worrying about that you

could share with a safe and trustworthy friend?

Is there a true friend with whom you may need to have

the courage to speak up honestly about a particular issue?

Is the friendship mutually respectful?

Is the friendship worth it?

Let’s be the kind of friend we would like to meet.

PLANT DEEP ROOTS in a true friendship today. As a believer, my deep-rooted faith allows me to daily moment-by-moment, share deep concerns with my trustworthy, nonjudgmental, loving and merciful God through prayer and meditation on The Word. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) One way that I do this is by reading a Proverbs of the day which coincides with the day of the month. Today’s meditation sent me to Proverbs 7:2-3…”Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; WRITE THEM ON THE TABLET OF YOUR HEART.” I felt especially close to God this past week as our family toured Europe together. Traveling like this prompts me to be mindful of how small humans are, how small our world is and how massively BIG our God is.

Joy Comes In the Morning

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.


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.


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.”


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.)


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.


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.

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.

Our annual TTU gathering, January 2015, Abingdon, Virginia in The Reads Home.
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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.

On March 14, 2015, friends watch a memory video with Kelly….girlfriends multiply JOY and divide SORROW.
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.
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.

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?

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There is NO EXPIRATION DATE With Our God

Though these events took place nearly eight years ago in our home, the truth remains forever.

Last night, my husband and I enjoyed homemade apple cobbler with spray whipped cream. Unfortunately we were out of vanilla ice cream which eliminated the chance for ala mode! This after dinner delicacy was actually so good that I decided to surprise our son with the same treat. He was holed up in his room, so I went ahead and fixed this dessert without even asking him if he wanted it.
When I had it all ready, with whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar, and 3 musketeers chocolate syrup, I called him down.

He was very pleased when he first arrived in the kitchen…then upon his initial observation, he asked about the date on the syrup.
I responded with the truth: “I have no idea what the date on that syrup is.”
Ok, now, don’t be shocked, but he decided to check the date and it was May of 2005…I am not kidding!!! ( I wish I was!) Needless to say, it went straight in the trash and he fixed himself a new dessert!
WE had some good laughs about dates on products that are in our ten year old home and how we might want to check them out a little more often and a little more carefully in the future…
Soon, our son was checking the dates on some of our other things…the milk had a good date, the yogurt was okay, too.

Later, just before retiring for the night, our son and I started talking about other “expirations”, like letting too much time go by before we open the Word.
If we are not careful, we wait too long to go to the Word for the answers to the big questions that we have in our lives. Just because we do not take the time to look in that direction, does not mean the answers are not there. If we are not careful, our days go by and we do not reap the benefits and the strength that it is in the Word for each of us to grab a hold of. As 50 something women, we realize more than ever that our lives on this earth have an “expiration date”. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us: “There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die.”

So, maybe you want to go check the dates of some of the products you have in your refrigerator, and perhaps you want to take stock in the date of the last time you delved into the Word as well.

Do something today that you have been putting off because we are not promised tomorrow. Only God knows the number of our days and He’s not telling us that number.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”
1 Peter 1:24-25

The Good News is that once we are His, considering God and His Word, there is NO EXPIRATION DATE!

A SOJOURNER Life Is A journey

“You only live once-but if you work it right, once is enough.” Joe F. Lewis

You and I, we are sojourners on this earth. The Webster’s dictionary defines a sojourner as follows:

“…one who is having a brief, temporary stay; a brief residence”

WE are sojourners on this earth because this earth is not our home.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Last night, as I worked for several hours organizing my thoughts, my story, in anticipation of sharing with the recovering ladies at the Women’s Extension Center, it quickly became apparent to me how far God has brought me in my life.
HOW ENCOURAGING!!! My main prayer has become two words: “Thank You.”
As a 50 something woman, (or any age woman!) I believe it is positively cathartic, very freeing, to think through, and even possibly write down your story, your personal testimony.
As I have expressed before, I have kept a journal for more than 20 years.
This simple tool has so often aided me in working through issues that have burdened my heart in my day-to-day life.
If you are not sure how to get started, try setting a timer for 10-20 minutes and just WRITE, WRITE, WRITE until the timer chimes…or TYPE, TYPE, TYPE…whichever is most comfortable for you.
In sharing with these women, I came up with the following verses to guide me:

Matthew 6:26-27
Lamentations 3:22-23
Galatians 5:1

“If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?” Rabbi Hahman of Bratslay

Today, I encourage you to consider yourself as a sojourner as you contemplate your life journey. How far have you come?