With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”
It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.
This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!
How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.
Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.
How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.
I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.
Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.
I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.
Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:
“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short-term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well.
Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
What is no longer serving us?
Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
Let’s Start Today!
P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!
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.
‘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.
While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!
Now, if someone would just remind the weather forecast that October has arrived!
Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.
“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale
What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!
“Sometimes when you don’t know the answer, live the question.”
Many tried to tell me how I might feel as a first-time grandmother. Most exclaimed that there were no words that could describe this new relationship. I agree. I do have occasional questions about these little ones’ future. Okay, the truth is that my thoughts surround Tripp, Elizabeth and their parents, constantly, lol. Our lives have changed forever since the births of our first two grands: Michael Scott Andrews, lll (Tripp) and Elizabeth Noel Page, respectively on 8/24/18 and 9/7/18. Our grand babies are pictured here during their nightly bath time.
Will they grow strong and will they be brave enough for this tough world we reside in? Will they truly know how much I love and cherish them? How will they face life challenges that are sure to come? What will they be? I find myself praying for Elizabeth and Tripp fervently each day. My Mama did the same for her children, her grands, and her great-grands.
In over six decades of living, I have come to realize many things. More than ever before, I have seen that sometimes the questions that we have in this life do not have answers that are easy to uncover…
WHY did someone have to die so soon?
WHY can’t _____ and _____ get along better?
WHY does this habit have such a strong hold on me?
WHY is this loved one living with a disability?
WHY was my husband unfaithful to me? OR
WHY did my husband die so young leaving me with the children?
FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME OF YOUR WHYS:_______________________________
As we journey through life, I think it is important to pray and talk to trustworthy friends, and perhaps even a counselor, about the issues in our lives.
Still, sometimes the answers just don’t come this side of heaven.
So what do we do?
WE LIVE THE QUESTION. We submit ourselves to the truth that we do not know the answer and we live the question, recognizing that the question may always be with us.
In the book CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE, By, Richard Foster, the author speaks to this on page 111:
“I said that every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even a lifetime, in a perpetual stew because something did not go as they wished. They will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. They may even get an ulcer, develop health problems over it.”
So, today, take a few moments to consider what “questions” have been gnawing at you, and make the choice to simply breathe and live out your days with an understanding that some of the “answers” are not for us to know just now.
'Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes...including you.'
Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer
What is mustard seed-sized faith? A mustard seed is tiny. Having faith that size is surely better than having no faith at all. Did you know? The mustard seed in the parable grows to be a huge tree, just as our small faith grows into tremendous faith over time, as we trust in God.
The birth of these two littles feels like God has filled up a gallon jug full of His Grace, and poured it over my head!
All of this has caused my heart to desire a time to unplug…a time to Be Still, a time to think. All of the above requires intention, which I have a lot of these days.
My Mama used to say…”We all need a chance for our bodies to catch up with our souls.” And speaking of Mama, I have been hard at work again on my book about the lessons I learned from my Mama. I truly hope to have the book in hands by the end of 2019.
For those of you who have attempted this, you know how scary writing a book can be. I plan to continue to face my fears, which thankfully gives me strength for each new day.
Thoughts by Warren Buffett (1930 – an American business magnate, investor, speaker, and philanthropist):
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe deeply and allow things to pass.”
'You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ' I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' '
Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady (1884-1962)
See you in a couple of weeks right here on Pages From Joan. Meantime, let us be encouraged, facing our fears with godly confidence. Let us cling to our faith. Small faith, like the size of a tiny mustard seed, is better than no faith at all. As followers of Christ, we can be assured that this world with the heartaches, tragedies, and challenging circumstances, this earth is not our home.
'The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a mustard seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle.'
Matthew 17:20 The Message
New York is 3 hours ahead of California, but that doesn’t make California slow. Someone graduated at the age of 22, but waited 5 years before securing a good job. Someone became a CEO at 25, and died at 50. While another became a CEO at 50, and lived to 90 years. Someone is still single, while someone else got married. Obama retired at 55, while Trump started at 70. EVERYONE in this world works based on their own time zone. People around you might seem to be ahead of you, and some might seem behind you. But everyone is running their own race, in their own time. Do not envy them and do not mock them. They are in their time zone, and you are in yours. Life is about waiting for the right time to act. So relax. You’re not late. You’re not early. YOU are very much on time.
'...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.'
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'
Alfred Lord Tennyson
This past weekend, we traveled to Abingdon, Virginia. The 4th annual Virginia Creeper Trail Rails To River Ride For Taylor Read took place on 10/6/18. We have known and loved the Read Family for four plus decades. This October journey to southwestern Virginia has become a yearly tradition for us.
I only knew Megan and Taylor Read as children while many of you were privileged to know them and watch them grown into bright, talented young adults—ready to leave their legacy in life.
Each one of us leaves a legacy, a mark on the lives of the people we touch. Today, the whole Read Family is leaving a Legacy of Love. And, I would like to acknowledge the love that Megan has shown for her brother. That love is reflected in this beautiful structure that brings shelter and comfort to those who pause here on their respective journeys. Megan designed it in love to honor Taylor and we can enjoy the benefits of her excellent work now and for years to come. Thank you, Megan, for this gift. It serves its purpose well. May God continue to bless your family.
Following the passing of their son, Taylor, age 23, 2015, our dear friends, Paul and Kelly have traveled a road none of us would have asked for. Along with their daughter, Megan, they have traveled it courageously, demonstrating strength beyond measure. They have leaned on each other, their faith, their family, and their many friends who love them. Fervent prayers have also played a significant role in their pilgrimage…prayers of their hearts and prayers of countless others. Prayers for this tumultuous journey The Reads have been called to travel. They have learned the truth that when we love much, we will grieve much and for always. We will also smile and laugh as countless memories are recalled by this community of Love for Taylor.
Reaching my sixth decade, I am noting that I have lost many whom I have loved, including both of my parents. Many that have passed have been between the ages of 20-45, years before their 60th birthday. This thought brings a few things to mind…my missing of these souls, these sons, like Taylor, Matt, Brendan and our nephew, Brad, daughters, mothers like Jule Furr, daddies like Doug Rives, Steven Rahn, and Rick Gray, they are missed by so many.
I have much gratitude that I am here today. Though my body and my brain are aging, I still have breath and energy to go forward. An affirmative attitude, my perspective at the start of each new day have become more important than ever. Seizing moments has become vital. My faith in a Living God has become an integral part of a courageous existence. I have learned that when I allow discouragement or anxiety to sneak into my days, circumstances seem even more out of control. I am also learning that when I seek joy, I find it and I am drawn to it like a magnet.
Back to our recent Virginia weekend. When I chatted with both Paul and Kelly individually, we talked about the joy, adventure, fellowship, laughter, fun, food, football, and Blue Grass Music.
There was enthusiasm for the weekend, even as we missed the presence of our Taylor not being with us. The thing is, he was with us as we celebrated his life well lived, his legacy, with a rigorous 8.2-mile bike ride on the scenic Virginia Creeper Trail to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station. We clinked our glasses as we announced “Cheers!” at the nearby Abingdon Vineyards Winery.
In unison, in and around Taylor’s Shelter, with over 200 strong voices together, we said the blessing Taylor said at family meals:
“Dear God, Thank You for everything we have and
we hope everybody’s okay. Amen.”
Yes, Taylor was with us, with many of his friends from both high school and college, many now married and a few are new parents. Taylor was with us, with his cousins, his Aunt Allison and Uncle Brian from GA, his grandparents from VA, TN, and GA. Taylor was with the dozens of The Read’s friends who watched him grow from a baby into a handsome young man. A guy who loved his family so much. Taylor loved people, golf, baseball, and God. A student who worked hard in school and loved hanging out with his friends. Taylor was with us as we remembered the day we received the shocking news of his passing, but more than that, we recalled the days that he lived, laughed, and loved.
Taylor’s Legacy Lives On in so many hearts.
From start to end, this was a weekend to remember. Our weekend started with a visit to the famous Barter Theater to see the play Singin’ in the Rain. I had a chance to spend lots of time with my college friends, Delo, Debby, Becky, and JoAnn at the shelter. Kelly’s husband, Paul brought our weekend to an amazing end with a Surprise Sunday Brunch for Kelly’s recent birthday on October 2nd. Yes, the weekend was filled with many remarkable blessings, circumstances that Kelly has come to call “Taylor Winks”.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns
As a now 60-year-old girl, my life these days is full of musings. I am sure this has a lot to do with more than six decades of living gone by, with a variety of sweet memories and sad remembrances. A musing is defined as a period of reflection and thought.
“October is the one month when temperatures moderate in the daytime and invigorate us in the evening. This month and change in the weather is conducive to reflective thought, exhilarating exercise, outdoor labor, charitable endeavor, courtships and pleasant romps with babies and small children.” ~Russell Baker, NYTimes, Ode to October~
Just sitting still for a few minutes on this beautiful October day, my mind wanders back to when our children were small and there was little time to be still and dream. Life was all a whirlwind, active and full.
Our life today, though definitely different, is just as much fun, but only if my husband and I make a conscious effort for it to be so. As true empty nesters, we prepare light evening meals to share followed by a 40 minute walk in our neighborhood or at nearby Kennesaw Mountain. We both enjoy the football season, time with friends, frequent visits to nearby Blue Ridge Lake, and we’re now planning more visits than ever to St. Louis. This weekend we will join our long-time friends, Kelly and Paul Read, along with many others to participate in the 4th Annual “Rails To River” Taylor Read Memorial Bike Ride. Riding eight miles from the trailhead in Abingdon, VA, we will end up at Taylor’s Shelter from the Storms of Life. A shelter, designed by Taylor’s sis, Megan, that is like no other. We always love celebrating Taylor’s life well lived in early October.
With this new season, we are grateful to have one grandchild nearby, Tripp Andrews (now nearly a six-week-old) and Elizabeth Page, who lives with her parents in Missouri (now nearly one month old).
With this new season upon us, we are reminded once again how swiftly the seasons go by.
Both our daughter and our son married high school best friends in 2014, and now both families have grown to include a tiny baby. While our son, Walker and his bride live more than 500 miles away, our daughter, Leah and her husband are nearby. We will celebrate Leah’s 30th birthday this Monday, October 8th! Life is Good. Just as we started our lives as a young family more than 36 years ago, the four of them are beginning theirs.