With Christmas and Hanukkah upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. 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.
Thanksgiving 2018 comes early this year! November 22, 2018. We plan to enjoy a much smaller than usual gathering in the North Georgia Mountains. It is Thanksgiving Week and I am wondering what this annual holiday means to you. I wrote this blog post on Thanksgiving 2014.
I am grateful for what I am and for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
One of our favorite long-time traditions on this day is passing out three dried corn kernels to each person present.Standing in a circle, before we bless the feast, we pass a small bowl around and have each one name three things they are thankful for while placing the kernels in the bowl. As we do this, we remember the pilgrims who went before us, making the famous 1620 voyage, and we share aloud our gratitude for life. You and your family may want to consider beginning a similar tradition for Thanksgiving 2018.
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Feast this year? You may want to consider a salad bar station like the one pictured above. This makes for a lighter addition to the otherwise heavier choices.
“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.
‘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!
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive, and they live forever, no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
'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.'
We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.
Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.
I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this cool October morning?
“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”
As we take some time to be still for a few minutes this weekend, let us all hold close to our hearts and in our prayers the many families impacted by both recent horrific hurricanes, Florence and Michael…more proof that life can change on a dime.
Life Is Fragile, Let Us Handle It With Prayer.
When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?
'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”.
As we celebrate our first born’s 30th birthday today, I am sharing this unforgettable story of how Leah came to be. Since this story played out in 1987-1988, my God has given me many reasons to be a person of hope and gratitude.
Many may wonder how it feels to be a mother of a 30-year-old, as well as a new grandmother. My main thought is one of pure joy and gratefulness that we are all still here to celebrate this day! We’ve all heard it said that “gratitude is a game changer in one’s attitude and approach to everyday living”, and I believe this with all of my heart!
Cheers To Leah Page Andrews Today!
Wishing you many, many more birthdays in the years ahead!
As a teacher at Avondale Elementary and a few years of suffering with unexplained infertility, I was near my wit’s end. We had planned everything out perfectly hadn’t we? With my husband still in training, we were hoping for a Spring Baby so that I could connect my maternity leave with a nice long summer before returning to the classroom.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
With May 1987, came another season of sadness and despair as we had one after another negative pregnancy test. It seemed that everyone we knew was having their first or second child. Married for five years, this was a season of adversity in our marriage. We both wondered aloud and privately if we would ever have the privilege of being parents. During my 1987-1988 Christmas Break, I found myself pleading with my God more than ever before.
I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 and placed it in this frame.
Soon after this, a snow-filled, early January Monday kept my husband and me home from work.
God can't give us peace and happiness apart from himself because there is no such thing.
Overjoyed to have this unexpected holiday together, we would later discover that this day was likely the day that our first-born child was finally conceived. (sorry for the TMI: too much information<smile>)
Some of the lessons we learned from this experience are:
God’s timing is perfect.
God knows even better than we know what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together even when things get tough.
When we seek God, we will find Him. In adversity, He draws us into a deeper walk with Him.
God hears our pleas.
Let’s be intentional about our choice to stay connected to our God and to each other when we are weak and when circumstances get tough.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminds us that when we are weak, He is strong!)
NOTE: This post was previously published in October 2015. The post was updated on 10/8/2018 in honor of our daughter, Leah Page Andrews as she turns 30 years old today.
“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.