Do you have a lot of stress in your life these days? With all of the changing news of the pandemic, day-by-day, it would be no surprise to anyone that our stress levels are at an all-time high.
We are all getting a taste of a slower lifestyle, one that came unannounced,unplanned, and topped with an uncertain future.
What has slowing down meant for you? Have you and I stopped to think about our days gone by when we were so busy that we could barely catch our breath? I think it is a good opportunity to look at that busy life and see what changes might be possible going forward.
'We're all broken. That's how the light gets in.'
Today, I will share with you six ways we can begin to relieve our stress starting today.
S-Seize the moment, pause and be IN the moment. Realize that this few minutes may be all we have. Breathe deeply connecting with your heart.
T-Take a break to meditate and pray…whatever that means for you. Express gratitude. While you are taking a break, consider coloring, collaging, escaping for a bubble bath, or taking a walk alone. Exaggerated self-care is vital during this time of sheltering in.
As a Christ-follower, I have learned that He meets me right where I am whenever I reach out to Him. I’m so thankful for this truth.
R-Rest enough. I know this is easier said than done. Especially for parents and teachers who are currently homeschooling when they were not used to doing it. Insufficient sleep puts us on edge. Try setting the timer on your phone and stretch out for a 15-25 minute power nap. At night, keep your screens away from your bedside table. It is particularly important to do this before sleep as it can cut down many of the problems related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
E-Be sure to get some exercise, even if it is a simple walk around your workplace parking lot during your lunch break. Move. Stretch. Stretch. Move. Exercise will pump up your endorphins, improving your mood.
S-As many have been sharing on social media, this is actually a perfect time to declutter your spaces. I have found that an uncluttered space = less stress. Watch YouTube videos to give you ideas and the motivation to get started. Shed Stuff. Even after the Pandemic, keep a “give away” box handy and put things in there on a regular basis. Most will agree that we just have too much stuff! Let’s give things away that are still useful and unclutter our lives some to help us relieve stress.
S-Screen Time Reduced. Most of us, if we were completely honest, spend way too much time looking at screens during our waking hours. The preoccupation with our devices, even during free time can often mess up other schedules causing delays in routine work, creating unwanted stress.
Regulating screen time can help individuals block out at least some of the channels through which stress is stimulated. During this extra time at home, consider creating a “cell phone basket” where all phones can take a break from their humans. This is especially important during meal time and family board game time.
Which of these six ideas will you incorporate into your life in the days ahead?
We can all agree that our globe has been turned upside with the sudden turn of events since the initial spread of the Corona Virus around December 31, 2019 in the community of Wuhan, China. We’ve been asked to social distance, shelter-in-place, and take every precaution necessary to keep ourselves safe from this ruthless rival.
We’ve had lots of time alone.
Time to think, time to ponder our life circumstances prior to this unexpected interruption. This is when the rubber meets the road regarding our inner self, our own personal beliefs about creation, mortality, and faith.
We can also agree that for the most part, these circumstances have brought out the very best in the human soul.
I have been wrestling lately about how I can best express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. Especially during the tumultuous and uncertain times that we find ourselves currently living in.
A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking are synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.
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
Raised in a Southern Baptist Church with my five brothers and sisters, I now consider myself more of a Christ-follower than a member of a certain denomination. At age nine, I professed belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As I grew, I believed God had my back, but I made the choice to stray away from a close walk with Him, for approximately ten years of my life. There is nothing wasted in God’s Economy. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that God used my time away to mold and deepen my faith in Him. It was during that time away that I learned about compassion, courage, forgiveness, and repentance.
I’ve often heard the question:
“If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”
Well, I was certainly the one who moved away from Him for that season of my life, but I see, looking back on that time, that He never, ever left me. I must say my time away has taught me so much about patience (on God’s part), compassion towards myself and my fellow-man, and love towards all created humans.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988.
I believe He has continued to woo me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
A few things that I learned during this season of my life:
God’s timing is perfect.
God, Creator is never surprised by the events that occur on this earth, not births, deaths, horrific events of nature or virulent viruses.
God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves.
The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work-to the best of our ability, assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform. And that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.
One of my favorite bumper stickers states:
CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT.
THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)
I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.
And now, today, with all that has transpired in my over six decades of life, and everything that is taking place during these unforeseen times, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our 19-month-old grandson , Tripp and our 19-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking.
Oh, how He Loves You and Me.
What do you think?
Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 46:1;10 and 91:1
A good number of years ago, when we still had a high-schooler living under our roof, 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 à la mode! This after dinner delicacy was actually so good that I decided to surprise our son with the same treat. He was 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 old, like a couple of years past the expiration date…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 were in our nearly twenty-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.
Isn’t it funny how some stories are simply unforgettable! Now Walker is a husband and a Daddy, yet, I can still see his determination to check all of our expiration dates. <smile>
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.
The tragedy of life is not death...but what we let die inside of us while we live.
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 we age, 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.
The Good News is that once we are His,
considering God and His Word, there is NO EXPIRATION DATE!
It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.
Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?
Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.
As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there.
I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.
As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!
The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)
Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home) I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket. As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)
Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.
Thanksgiving 2019 comes late this year! November 28, 2019. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. But first, tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of our dear friend, Debra O’Dell, age 58, who passed recently from a cancer battle. Debbie has been quite the fighter and lover of life, as a Kindergarten, a missionary, a Mom, a wife, a devoted servant in our church and the kindest friend you could ever have. Deb will be greatly missed!
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.
In the midst of preparing for Thanksgiving 2019 and tolerating the countless words and expressions during the Impeachment Hearings, it is good to simply stop AND consider things of eternal value. The “reason for the season” and similar musings, like the message that resonated with our hearts back a few years ago. Messages that remind us that God has a forgetful nature.
It is my hope that this message will encourage your heart as it has mine this morning!
Back in 2015, Donny and I were so inspired as we left Piedmont Church. It was the first Sunday in December and for such a large sanctuary, it certainly is a warm and welcoming place to be and this Sunday was no exception. The lights shone brightly, the trees and wreaths adorned the bannisters, the stage. But the thing that encouraged us the most was when our Pastor, Ike Reighard, gave an unforgettable message, as he began a new series, entitled PRICELESS.
Pastor Ike reminded us that our great big God has a forgetful nature.
YOU can view this series of messages on lifestream at our Piedmont Church website. God doesn’t just forgive, he forgets our wrong choices. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 NLT
Three of the greatest gifts we as believers find in him are:
With the Christmas Season upon us, join me as I reflect on how fortunate we are that we serve a forgiving God.
We ALL fall short. That’s the reason God sent his only son to the earth as a baby. Click here to gain greater understanding of the true story of Christmas. There are so many misunderstandings about this story. Many have doubted the truth of it for centuries, including C.S.Lewis and Lee Strobel, both of whom wrote books about their doubts regarding this intriguing story. “The son of God knew what it was to be a homeless person. What it was to start life without a roof over his head.” Pope Francis, Washington, D.C. October 2015
It’s Christmas and there are so many ways to identify with the Christ Child and his parents, too. As Pope Francis was here on his recent trip to D.C., he visited a homeless shelter and he reminded his audience that Jesus was “homeless” as a newborn. Jesus’ mother gives all mothers the greatest example of humility and trust in Luke 2:51b, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Joseph, a carpenter, was a faithful and honorable man.
Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” C.S. Lewis
Faith is like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger our faith will become. No, we cannot see God, in his flesh and blood, but as we admit our need for him, believe in him with all of our heart, and acknowledge our faults to him, our lives are forever changed and then we see him EVERYWHERE we look.
We may not know the future,
but perhaps Christmas 2019 will be a season for
drawing closer to the ONE who does.
And speaking of not knowing the future, as a UGa 1980 Graduate, I would love for you to check out this great blog post entitled “Farewell Coach”.
from Forgotten Forever, by Max Lucado, the passage that Pastor Ike read to us yesterday morning.”
I was thanking the Father today for his mercy. I began listing the sins he’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word remember that it hit me. “remember the time I…” I was about to thank God for another act of mercy. But I stopped. Something was wrong. The word remember seemed displaced. It was an off-key note in a sonata, a misspelled word in a poem. It didn’t fit. “Does he remember?”
Then I remembered. I remembered his words. “And I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12 Max Lucado
Last night I had a chance to hear The Doobie Brothers live at the Cobb Energy Centre. Donny and I went with two couples, long-time friends of ours. In fact, I went to Fernbank Elementary with Jan and Jane Ellen. We’ve shared a 6-decade friendship.
The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band from San Jose, California. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. They have been active for nearly five decades, with their greatest success in the 1970s.
The other day as we were driving along, the song In The Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics came up on our Sirius station. As I listened to the words and then googled the lyrics to read along, I thought about the phrase, “Courageous Conversations” that our pastor, Dr. Ike Reighard taught us nearly a decade ago…having that difficult discussion with our loved ones even when it is awkward or uncomfortable. Our family took this phrase to heart, applying it to problems, to issues, to discussions that came along. We had courageous conversations often…. agreeing to disagree many times.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between two major military holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Sometimes there is confusion about the two, so I am hoping by the time you have read through this short post, you and I will have a clearer understanding of these important holidays. Click here for a brief video that does a good job of showing us the difference. EVERY DAY is a good day to raise the flag!
In a nutshell, here is some info about each of these two important holidays:
****Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. (Wikipedia)
***Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans, that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I; major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. (Wikipedia)
I hope this brief explanation will help you and me, our children, our grandchildren, as well as others we meet along the way to gain a greater clarification regarding Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Now that Memorial Day 2016 has come and gone, summer is officially here. Enjoy every moment!
Some other Pages From Joan posts regarding our veterans:
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
“The Sandwich Technique” is a mindful, sensitive communication strategy which everyone (including sensitive people) can use to transform the relationships with their partner, friends, family, and co-workers.
This technique is not intended to be fake or simply to placate others. Being brutally direct can backfire and make people feel defensive and unable to hear your comments (no matter how useful they are).
When you use The Sandwich Technique, make requests not demands. Then, when you are communicating about a difficult issue, you sandwich the request between two positive statements. It’s a creative way of presenting challenging topics so that others can hear you. Let’s say you need more alone time. First you could say, “I appreciate all your support and I need your help with this.” Then place your request: “It would be great I can take more alone time to decompress. This will help me be even more present with you later.”
You empower your relationships by expressing your needs. Also, relationships thrive on both people feeling accepted. One patient told me, “My husband accepts me as I am. Through his acceptance I have learned to be true to myself.”
We all have issues to resolve in relationships no matter how good the match. To do this, we need to have loving, creative conversations.
The Sandwich Technique is a great way to have an important discussion with someone you care about.
When is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?
I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.
― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865)
Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.
It has also been identified as “the elephant in the room”.
The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.
and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship. “The Sandwich” is a super great way to have that courageous conversation without hurting someone’s feelings.
I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.