Busy School Days Three Things We Did

School Days are busy days, that is for sure! The days will go by, no matter what.

Welcome to Reality - Road sign

The hour is 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, and I find myself walking through our quaint Marietta Square thinking about afternoons gone by, when our son and daughter were small and coming up. Now married, ages 31 and 28, Leah and Walker are both married with children of their own.

Were we busy on school days! The hours between 2:30-8:30, six hours in all, were so jammed pack, roller skates would have probably helped me to make it to their bedtime. Homework, sports, carpools, snack time, Mission Friends,  baths, music lessons, dinner, and more, filled those six hours each weekday and the memories come flooding in when I allow them to. My husband’s work schedule did not allow him to help me shuffle them here and there, so it was lots of other Moms, and me, who counted on each other to create plans that were workable.

TODAY, however, as we continue to face the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. school days are anything but “normal”. (I heard it said once that “normal” is nothing but a setting on a washing machine, lol)

What we are facing, collectively, is something most of us have never dealt with before—the threat of contagion, the challenges of quarantine, and the possibility (or reality, sadly) of major losses, both in human terms and economically. AND now, it is August and Back To School Season, after abruptly closing our schools down in Mid-March 2020.

During these especially challenging times, I think it is particularly important to remember to be non-judgmental, kind and supportive regarding the school decisions that our family and friends are making for the students who still live at home.

Some are choosing virtual, some are home-schooling, and some are attending classes face-to-face. All choices are permissible.

As we continue to move forward with tremendous hopes for finding a viable vaccination as soon as possible, let’s pour out resolve, resilience, and support to all who are in our path. Let’s look for ways to help others during this time, even in small ways such as an encouraging note or a meal for a neighbor who is battling cancer. Let’s all Look UP, keeping our faith strong.

Now at a local Starbuck’s patio at the corner of Whitlock and North Marietta Parkway, the hour is closer to three p.m., and I think about the parents are  would normally be heading to schools for pick-up, while the teachers are calling the day a wrap as they clean their boards and straighten the classrooms in preparation for Hump Day.  Not this year. Not in 2020. Many schools are virtual, while a few are not. Either way, the days go by, no matter what.

Back to school design over white background, vector illustration

I don’t feel sad as I recall these school days gone by, but I do recall easily three things that we intentionally tried to do every single day:

1) Eat dinner together as a family-not every night, but we tried hard to make it most nights. We would go around the table sharing “highs” and “lows” from the day gone by. The crockpot was my best friend then! Click here to read a pertinent article about this.IMG_5309

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2) We read together every night at bedtime. When they were nonreaders, we would read to them and once they learned to read, we would read with the popcorn method-you read a page and your child reads a page. Click here to read an important article about reading with your kids.

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3) Each and every night, we would rest our hand on our child and give them the following blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Parents today, more than ever before, still want the Lord to bless their children. 

How about your family? What intentional traditions and memories are you building into the busy days of your children and grandchildren? The SKY is the limit!

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A SPOT OF SUNSHINE Let's Watch For Them

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.

Two of our FF (Friends Forever) group, Jan and Jane Ellen. Yes, friends since Fernbank Elementary.

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.

That spot of sunshine may be the simplest thing. The simple things can be missed if we are not in the habit of watching for them.

This may have come to me in a smile, a kind word, a note in the mail, a loving hug, an encouraging text or email, artwork, birthday celebrations, a laugh, a song, a written message or verse, a yummy taste of a favorite food, the chance to aid another, sweet memories, excellent health care, and the way my loved ones say my name, just to name a few.

Measuring The Moments…the “spots of sunshine” with our two children, Leah and Walker, when they were growing. (1993-1994)

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.
“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
~James M. Barrie~

What are the spots of sunshine that you are most comforted and encouraged by
during this crazy season we are finding ourselves in?

Let’s Watch For Them.

Taylor’s Ride with dear friends. October 2018.

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Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

No Expiration Check The Date

IMG_7642A 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. Norman Cousins

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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!

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A Loving Eulogy for My Father November 11th Veteran's Day 2013

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‘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:

Autumn Leaves

“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!

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The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

“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.

Check out this link for a great, quick read about The Sandwich Technique.

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.

Positive***Negative***Positive

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.

Let’s Start Today!

35 Life Reminders For You And For Me

Life Reminders For You and For Me, Whether We Are Young, Old, or In Between

No matter our age, we are all here to help one another. Helping those younger than we are and those older than we are will add spice to our own lives. These life reminders will make our life sweeter, too!

My precious daughter, Leah, with her loving Aunt Laura Lea, Lake Blue Ridge

1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.

It sets you up for a great day ahead.

2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.

3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.

One of my sisters, Kathy and me

4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.

Kelly and Megan, Taylor’s Shelter, October 2015

5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.

My sister, Mary Ann, serving at a clinic with my beautiful niece, Amy

6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.

Peg and Marilyn, October 2017, Abingdon, VA for Taylor’s Ride

7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.

College Reunion # 39 Marietta, Georgia 2017

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.

9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.

10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is.   Don’t confuse these.

Pam and Wanda, May 2017 Lake Blue Ridge Women’s Retreat

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.

Robin, Rhonda, and Susan, The Dinner Team at our May 2017 Women’s Retreat

12. Never walk through an alley.

13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.

Aimee Copeland  founder of Aimee Copeland Foundation, empowering people of all abilities to lead fulfilling and joyful lives

14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.

A Hike on our Women’s Retreat May 2017

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.

16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.

17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….

Leah doing one of her favorite things, surfing!

18. Your body, your rules. Always.

Paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge

19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.

Hiking Mt. LeConte with girlfriends in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, June 2016

20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!

21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

My brave and beautiful niece, Pamela, Mommy to two. Here with son, Roman.

22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)

My beautiful niece, Emily with her niece, Noelle

23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.

24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.

Artist, Holly Irwin visits The Women’s Extension with me 2017

25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.

My Girls! Leah and Jessica, Summer 2016

26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.

27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.

28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.

29. Question everything except your own intuition.

Sunrise Cruise GG, 2016 Lake Blue Ridge

30. You have enough. You are enough.

Cocktails and Carols with David Brewer, December 2016

31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.

32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.

There Is Always A Road You Can Take Back Home

33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.

Our first two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Tripp. Their arrival in late 2018 has changed everything for my husband and me.
My Mama, my best friend, (1927-2006)

34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

35. No one will ever love you more than I do

                          Copied, Author Unknown

*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with those you love the very most in this life.

If You Can’t Find The Answer LIVE YOUR QUESTION

An anonymous poet once said:

“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.

Elizabeth Page
Tripp Andrews

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.

JoAnn, Jan, Kay, Susan, and Delores take in the sunrise on Lake Blue Ridge.
Watching our daughter as a first-time Mommy to Tripp has truly been an extraordinary experience. I’ve thought of my own Mama more than ever as I know how much she loved observing her four daughters as mothers to her grands. My heart is overflowing with gratefulness for the gift of my daughter, Leah…she is truly a loving, nurturing responsible Mommy, just like I knew she would be.
Monday Lunch Date on October 29, 2018. “A daughter is God’s way of saying…”thought you could use a lifelong friend.” Anonymous

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Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave This Inspiring Angel Will Be Missed

This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom! Jordan Furr

My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.

You can also read a blog post about Jule’s life story, Part 1 that was written in 2014 by Melony Brown: Courageous Women Overcoming Life’s Tough Challenges.

And you will find Part 2 of this blog post by Melony, here.

Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.' Eleanor Roosevelt

Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.

I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light. Jule Furr

Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.

Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”

It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she  joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!

First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds,  Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.

My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.

Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.

In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!)  Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!

Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction,  soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.

During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.

One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”

Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.

We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past. John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)

I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!

Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.

Jules favorite verse can be found in Romans 5:1-5. Emphasizing both peace and hope, it is definitely worth taking the time to read.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

Those who knew Jule were blessed, and those who did not have an opportunity to meet Jule will be inspired by her life and adopt her stories to strengthen their own hearts.

It is now time to celebrate the life of this unique and special daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend to countless gals who will miss this inspiring angel so very much, including me!

Loss is loss, and I will be praying for this precious family during this time of grief. I will also be lifting up the many others I know and love who have lost in 2017.

RIP my dear warrior friend, Jules Furr. See YOU Later!

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Hurting Hearts Painful Paths Challenges That Come With Depression And Suicide

Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated?  Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.

Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.

However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.

“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.” Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life

Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.

My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)

Questions are left unanswered. This reminds me of a song from one of my all-time favorite movies, “A Walk To Remember” starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. Click here to listen to Someday We’ll Know.

Yes, we must increase our dialogue, open our hearts to more sharing regarding depression, mental illness of all kinds, and death by suicide.

Let’s Start Now.

Click here to watch this five-minute video with my friend, Kristen sharing her heart with us regarding her mother’s death by suicide.

After Kristen’s Mom’s passing on November 5, 2011, a spark grew inside of Kristen’s heart to start a non-profit called Kids Boost. 

This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.

Here is how it works!

  1.  Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2.  Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.

3.  Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.

Kristen, founder of the Non-Profit Kids Boost is going places with her enthusiasm and great ideas!

4.  Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.

5.  Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.

Let’s please start now talking more openly about the pain and truth of mental illness….

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Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs To Tell Me Which Way I Should Go To Find The Answer

Did the title of this post ring a bell for you?

“Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. To tell me which way I should go to find the answer.  And all the time I know, plant your love and let it grow.”

The Fritz Garden in Lenoir City, Tennessee LET IT GROW!

It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years.  You can listen to the song here.   

(On a Side Note) Did you know? 461 Ocean Boulevard, the solo album by Clapton marked his return to recording after recovering from a three-year addiction to heroin. I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope for the severe drug epidemic our world is currently addressing.

'Love Never Fails.' 1 Corinthians 13:8
My buddy for 40 years, Kelly Read and me on a beautiful fall day doing one of our favorite things: biking the 8.2 miles from the Abingdon, Va trailhead to Taylor’s Shelter at Alvaredo Station on The Holston River & The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.

'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.' Unknown

Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.

“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”

While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.

Kelly and her daughter listen as Paul shares about Taylor, a son, brother, friend, nephew, grandson, who has been missed so much! Zach, Meg’s boyfriend stands with them.

Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.' Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

This family has intentionally focused on faith, family, and friends. They have purposefully played outdoors any chance they get, whether it is walking their four-legged companion, Player, biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, or tilling and planting in Mom’s Garden behind their Abingdon, Virginia home.

Player is always game for a walk around the quaint community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.

The Reads have enjoyed many performances, whether at The Barter Theater or the incredible shows at The Biltmore Concert Series in Asheville, North Carolina.

Taylor’s Shelter is under construction Summer of 2015

Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.

Just outside The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. They provided a gourmet picnic lunch for all of us!

Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.

On October 7, 2017, the 3rd Annual Rails To River Ride For Taylor gather together, friends for 40 years, along with Kelly’s Mom, Peg and daughter, Megan.

As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow.  By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:

“Hey tomorrow, where are you goin’? Do you have some room for me? ‘Cause night is fallen’ and the dawn is calling’. I’ll have a new day if she’ll have me.”

A few more favorite pictures from our day!

Mimi and Megan hang out after we all ride to Taylor’s Shelter.
The Womble’s Family vehicle is loaded with bikes!
Taylor Heston Read, a Life Well Lived

Lincoln, 2nd cousin of Taylor’s (by marriage) wears his homemade Rails To River t-shirt, made with LOVE by his MIMI!
Lincoln’s baby brother, Tucker takes in the day with his JimDad!
Here with our college buddy, Kay, Paul Read is always helping someone ready their bike for the trail ride.
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.' Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017

I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will. 

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

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