The Disease Of Addiction Is Real. Hope Is Real, Too!

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Note: This post was first published on January 17, 2016 and updated on September 27, 2018…There Is Always HOPE!

I had the opportunity to attend a MAG Alliance annual meeting this past Tuesday, September 25, 2018.

I learned so much that it prompted me to re-publish this important post.

My long-time friend, Dave invited me to hear Dr. Debra Houry, MD, MPH speak.

Dr, Debra Houry is making a huge impact as our CDC Director of Injury Prevention and Control

For four years, Dr. Houry has been the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center). During her first year, the Injury Center has aided states in preventing prescription drug overdose.

My long-time friend, Dave Street is the current president of MAG Alliance.

Dr. Houry reminded our audience that there must be a concerted national approach against the opioid crisis. This crisis has come in three waves: 1: a rise in prescription drug deaths, 2: a rise in heroin deaths, and 3: a rise in synthetic opioid deaths (street drugs laced with fentanyl-these deaths have increased more than 6-fold from 2013-2016.) For more information on all that our CDC is doing click here on their website: RX Awareness. The CDC RX Awareness Campaign in now active in 27 states, including GA. The phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) and there is a tool kit available on their site.

Having volunteered at The Extension, Women’s Campus, in Marietta, Georgia since its 2009 opening, my heart is extremely soft towards those who suffer with alcoholism and other addictions.  With the birth of our two grands, I have stepped down for now as a volunteer. I am grateful that a friend has stepped up to carry on this tradition of having an “art therapy” session with “my girls”.

Every beating heart has a story, and the more I have worked with these women, the more I have realized that they have the same hopes and dreams for their future that you and I have for ourselves and for our families.

If you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs,

click here for a helpful guide.

The Disease Of Addiction Is Real. Hope Is Real, Too!

Andrew Chalmers grew up alongside our two children at Piedmont Church in Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A. Andrew has given me permission to share his very real and painful journey with you as he and his family celebrate his sixth now 8th, I believe) anniversary in complete recovery! And before you read Andrew’s story, you need to know this update: Andrew is now Founder and Director of Take the City.  This growing organization’s vision is to transform cities by serving in the areas of proclamation, compassion, and justice. Click here to read more about Andrew and his team of warriors who are making a huge impact in cities across America.

Each One Reach One. Beauty From Ashes.

In more news, my friend, Nancy, Andrew’s Mom, is now an author of No One Visits the Mother of an Addict.  You can read more about Nancy’s perspective here.

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ANDREW

My Story
My story is a story of redemption and a story of great hope restored. It’s a story that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love that God has for each and every person on the face of the earth. I feel like my story is a great demonstration of how God can make all things beautiful, no matter how messy we make them. The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever even think to ask for. My story is one that shows it’s only when we die that we truly find life.

Growing up I had an amazing childhood with a great family. I played sports and loved to play out in the woods. I went to church with my family and was involved in all kinds of great positive activities. At 5 I first prayed to Jesus to come and save me and when I was 8, I was baptized. Then the next year something started to change. Because of a series of events, I became aware of a much different reality in this world than I was accustomed to and became really confused and angry.

My teen years I was filled with rage, confusion and depression. I started using alcohol and drugs at 12 and began a lifestyle pursuing the perfect mixture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. My life dramatically changed at 15 when I started using pain killers and taking club drugs. I remember my first time getting high on pills; I thought I had finally found what I had always been missing. I thought I had finally found the peace I had been searching for…

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Andrew flanked by his precious parents and son, Landon

For the next few years I headed down a path of total destruction and eventually started using heroin. When I first tried to stop at age 19 my girlfriend at the time became pregnant with my son, Landon. I tried to get myself together as we prepared to have a baby but I could not seem to get it together.

As parents watch the nightmare unfold when their teen becomes self-destructive, they wonder how they will ever reconnect with the son or daughter that they fear they are losing. It is the most helpless, hopeless feeling in the world, and it can overwhelm an entire family with unimaginable pain, chaos, and despair. from Teen Challenge Website

When my son was born I was in a detox facility having terrible withdrawals from drugs. I was so happy to have my son come into the world but was also still so consumed by my addiction. I made another decision I would get it all together that day in the hospital.

I ended up in a longer-term faith-based program and made a decision to follow Christ. When I finished the program I went home with an honest desire to start new but still was holding on to so much of my life. I had an ambition to get it all together and make everything work between my son’s mother and me. We got married that summer and I idealized pursuing The American Dream with my new wife and our baby. The dream was short-lived when we separated the next year. I was crushed when my dream was crushed. I had invested everything into this relationship and this dream. When it fell apart, so did the rest of my life.

I started using drugs again and spiraled out of control the rest of that year. I remember my first wake up call was going to jail in Atlanta for possession of cocaine and then immediately after I got out I went to get more drugs. After my heart had stopped due to a drug overdose, I remember buying more drugs the day I was released from the hospital. When I had no where else to go and ended up sleeping on the streets of a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, I can remember still only thinking about how I could get high. My life was consumed with this addiction and I was on the verge of suicide.

That’s when everything changed. My dad and I got in touch and he told me he had found out about a program called Teen Challenge and that he would help me got there. At first I was reluctant to go, but the next morning I woke up and felt something inside me say, “If you don’t get out of this place, you are going to die.” With urgency I called my dad and told him where I was. Then after waiting a few minutes, I changed my mind and left to go get high again. When my dad finally found me I was at an abandoned house, cold and shaking because of how many drugs I had been doing. I remember thinking I would kill him if he tried to take my drugs. He just sat there and watched me smoking crack and doing other drugs until they were all finally gone. When I finished I put the needles and pipe down and I remember him saying with a heart full of compassion, “Come with me son.”

16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
19 He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me. (Psalm 18)

I can relate so much to what David wrote in this Psalm when I reflect on how the Lord used my dad to rescue me out of the darkest place I could have ever imagined. When I look back I can imagine God’s hand reaching down from heaven to pull me out of the dark pit and rescuing me from enemies that really were too strong for me to overcome myself. God saved my life that day because he delighted in me even in my mess. When He saw me at my worst He loved me as much as he ever could or ever will. He loved me completely and with all of His heart. He pursued me no matter how far I tried to run away. He had a plan and a purpose even when no one else could see it.

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Haiti Orphanage Ministry, Christmas 2012

A month or so later I made the most important decision in my life. I made the decision not to just avoid hell or to be a better person for Jesus. I didn’t just pray the sinner’s prayer and feel all tingly. I made a decision to die to self. I decided one day on a loading dock that I would absolutely give everything in my life to Jesus and hold nothing back. That day has forever changed me.

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Tel Aviv October 2015

The next year or two I began to grow and deal with the many problems I had struggled with so many years of my life. One by one, the Lord just began to take away things from me. He took away even the desires that I had for these destructive behaviors as I continued to get in His presence and read His word. My life started to radically change and something new started to rise up inside of me. God started placing passions inside of me and began showing me that He had great destiny and purpose for my life. It was when He began to reveal to me my identity and destiny that I really began to strip off anything that hindered me from walking with Him. It wasn’t a set of rules that made me want to change but the overwhelming reality of His great love for me that filled my heart with a passion to pursue Him with everything.

These last four years God has restored my relationship with my son Landon. It has been an amazing miracle to watch him change the impossible to possible. When I first got off drugs I wasn’t even allowed to see Landon in supervised visitation. Today I have joint custody and have an amazing relationship with his mom and their family. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I ever could have imagined.

11745943_10206836535941652_3616794178398357446_nGod has also given me opportunities to travel and do things I never thought would be possible. I have been able to do mission work in South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, Canada and Europe. He has also given me a chance to travel all over the U.S. and share about all He has done for me. He has given me so many amazing friends and has restored my relationship with my family. He has healed me of all depression, anxiety and ADD. He has completely taken away my desire to take drugs, drink or even smoke cigarettes. He has replaced my suicidal thoughts with a life full of passion, hope and joy. When I chose to die completely and give Him everything I got so much more in return. He has given me a life of abundance.

My life’s mission is to abide in Christ’s love in such a way that others are inspired to pursue God with reckless abandonment and that my life would burn so passionately for God that it would set countless others on fire for Him.

Since this post was first published in early 2016, a lot of good things have been happening in the life of Andrew Chalmers. My friend and Andrew’s Mom, Nancy has written a must-read for any family who is dealing with this very difficult season: No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict. Click here to find out more about her story.

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Andrew Chalmers looks ahead to a positive, hopeful future…

A Resource List:

The Addiction Recovery GuideIMG_8478

Teen Challenge USA

The Extension: life*worth*recovery

Addiction Recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse

the fix: Addiction and Recovery, Straight Up

Celebrate Recovery: A Christ-Centered Recovery Program

Davis Direction Foundation

Mother’s Day Is Here

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Polly Walker, Mom to six, two sons and four daughters

It is Mother’s Day again and this day, every year, brings up so many memories and emotions. October 24, 2018 will mark twelve years since my Mama passed away with esophageal cancer. Every beating heart has a story. You and I have stories, especially regarding our own mothers, as well as our personal experiences with mothering. Some may still have their Moms with them. If so, I pray they will recognize how blessed they are, even in hard and trying times. Loving Well, unconditionally is probably the most significant thing we can do.

Mother’s Day is extra special for us as we are expecting our first grandchildren in September 2018!!!

I saw the following quick video on Facebook recently and thought it was perfect for this Mother’s Day Season: A Fake Job Interview Was Set Up.

This post from 2015 may prove helpful to you if you are a new mother or grandmother: Moms And Grandmoms: A Season Of Adjustment.

Maybe your mother was not much of a mother at all, because of substance abuse or mental illness. The mother in the memoir I am currently reading is an example of this: The Memory Palace, by, Mira Bartok. If so, I hope you will make every effort to break that cycle with forgiveness and love.

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The Walker Clan in 2004, Norris Lake, Tennessee

Some of you, much younger than myself, are pondering being a Mommy, dreaming about a little one in your future. You may be having some trouble bringing that dream to reality.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

 We had that same problem, twice in fact, and you can read about it here in my post called Fertile Prayers.

Perhaps this is your first Mother’s Day without a child who has left you far too soon. If that is where you find yourself today, please read an earlier post: How The Soul Grows Through Loss, where I share how our dear friends, The Reads have journeyed onward since their son, Taylor died in early 2015.

We all know what a true gift a good mother is. And I have been working on a little book about some things I learned from my Mama. I look forward to sharing it with you in 2017! YOU might want to read five lessons my Mama taught me here.

I don’t think there is a parent or grandparent around who has not thought their child or grandchild would “slow down” in their growing up years.

Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.” Erma Bombeck

 My Mama used to say, “As much as you might want to, you can’t put a brick on their head to stop them from growing up.”

Click here to enjoy a short video about this very thing by artist, Nichole Nordeman. (thanks, Leslie Swift!)

Whether you are an aunt to some special kids, a new Mommy, expecting, an empty nest Mom, or aiding a Mother in her late decades, smile at the gift that is today. Yes, today is a gift and that is why we call it the present!

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Oh, and guys, be sure to take charge of the kitchen

and childcare details this weekend!

Whatever your current circumstances,

I hope Mother’s Day 2016 will be a special

time for you and yours!

Consider sharing this post on Facebook or email with the special mothers and grandmothers that you know.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Five Lessons From A Horse

Being Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have

The Simple Things

Five Ways To Love Well: We Only Get One Chance

Five More Ways To Love Well

A SPECIAL GIFT FROM THE DADDY'S MOM

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Four Ways To Love Our Peeps Valentine's Day Is Here

Here I will share with you four ways to better love our peeps.  As Valentine’s Day is here, our minds go to the significant, loving relationships in our life journey. Are they fulfilling, communicative, in harmony, and committed? Do we enjoy time spent with these we are in relationship with? Do we laugh together? Most of us if we are completely honest, would say, that our relationships could be better.

One of the things my Mama taught me is a tool she used during her 58 years of marriage. When the faults of her man seemed glaring to her, she would take a moment, hold out both hands in front of her, like a scale, and say this to herself: “My right hand represents Johnny’s shortcomings, and my left hand represents the ways that I fall short.” Invariably, she would tell me, her left hand always weighed heavier than her right.

'Dear Friends, Let us love one another, for love comes from God.' 1 John 4:7

Rather than wanting our partners to change so things would be better, perhaps it is time to determine how we could show up differently and make the difference we are seeking.

Here are three ways to better love our peeps:

1) Cultivate Your Love Life Inside Out

This first one may surprise you, as it has less to do with your relationships and more to do with your inner heart. Did you know? Studies have shown that one will never let oneself have more health, happiness, and success than one feels he/she deserves. What does that mean? This means that right this minute you and I are attracting what we feel worthy of having. What would you say your current self-worth score is on a scale of 1-10? What things could you do to increase that score? Before we can expect to find love from anyone else, we first have to find it within ourselves. Our God loves us and wants us to have self-worth and self-respect. And let’s surround ourselves with people who truly love and support us!

'Friends are like elevators. They either take us up or bring us down.' Naomi Judd

(2) Leave the Blame Game Behind

I know when I criticize my husband of nearly 35 years, he literally shuts down, not with anger, just sadness. Blaming and judging will guarantee a poor partnership! Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself, and everything else will fall into place.” Could it be that there is something you are ‘unhappy’ within yourself? Think about it! An important relationship is our connection to our own heart. When we accept ourselves as we are, then and only then can we accept others without condition.

My Parents, Valentines for Life!

(3) Let The Past Go

Every beating heart has a story and our history (thank goodness!!!) is not our destiny. It’s good to habitually say to ourselves: “That was then. This is now.” We all have things in our past we may not be proud of, but we can let that all go and focus on today. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call today, ‘the present'” (unknown)

(4)Live Out Our Days with Gratitude and Appreciation

Wayne Dyer said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In every loving relationship, there are more good things than bad things going on. However, if the negative things become our ‘focal point’, then they seem way bigger and become more and more dominant in our partnership.  Read this by Charles Swindoll on Attitude. We all get to choose the thoughts that control our feelings and emotions that end up driving our lives.

Now, we all know that Valentine’s Day is just one more day established by Hallmark, LOL!

Love Always Wins!

What are some of the ways you and I can exhibit more love towards our peeps each and every day of the year? How can we make our parents, sons, daughters, girlfriends, and partners feel more treasured and cherished in the days ahead?

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learn To Love Yourself Despite The Struggles

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

Fill Your Love Tank: Don’t Run On Empty

The Love Letter Challenge

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!

Related Post You May Have Missed:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Standing At The Crossroads, Trying To Read The Signs

How Do We Describe Grief?

It Is Well With My Soul

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Run To The Roar

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

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God Bless America And Beyond May Angels Fly Beside You, May Heaven Steel Your Hearts

As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!

Tailgating in Atlanta on a beautiful Saturday, December 2, 2017 with two of my favorite girls. My daughter, Leah in the middle and Jane Ellen, my long-time high school friend.

As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.

The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.

During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.

So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.

As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.

Our young friend, Sam, learns early about the sacrifices of our military.

Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.

Our young friend, Will shows his respect at a military grave site.

Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.

God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts. 

In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?

Related Posts You May Have Missed:

Memorial Day: Three Ways To Raise Up The Flag

Man’s Best Friend

Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day

Kneeling During the Anthem

Make A Difference With “Catch A Lift”

Humble And Kind

Don’t Borrow Trouble From Tomorrow

A Father Is More Than A Sperm Donor

The Hospitality Of Gander, Newfoundland

Never Forget

We Are Called To Be Brave

Kindness Is Better Than A Win

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Rules Of The Red Rubber Ball 7 Rules That Make Up A Blueprint For Life

I recently ran across a cool, little book called Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find And Sustain Your Life’s Work,  by, Kevin Carroll.  This book, only 4 x 6 inches in size, will make a perfect stocking stuffer. It is a concise blueprint for living no matter what season of life you are traveling through.

I am especially inspired by true life stories about one who has risen above great adversity.  Author, Kevin Carroll is another example of this very thing.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, and born the same year as me (1958), Carroll’s parents ended up abandoning he and his two brothers by the time he was eight years old.

Thankfully, the boys were rescued by their grandparents who raised them with love and guidance. Initially, a scrawny kid, Carroll found his release on the playground with a red rubber ball.

With straightforward, captivating storytelling, Kevin Carroll conveys his childhood passion for sport and play into a widely engaging blueprint for life. Tapping wisdom from the playgrounds of his adolescence, where he spent hours and hours strengthening his body and his mind, Carroll shares with us his Rules of the Red Rubber Ball – how to achieve maximum human potential through the power of passion and creativity. YOU may want to click here to watch a 5 minute YouTube video featuring author, Kevin Carroll. His enthusiasm is contagious!

Finding your own -red rubber ball and chasing it to your heart’s content, he argues, is the surest route to peace, prosperity, and happiness. What is your red rubber ball, anyway!?! Life is change and change is life. You may be a growing child or a young adult just starting out in the working world. An empty nester, or in your fourth quarter of life. The following questions Carroll includes in his whimsical, little book will help you out:

  • What would you do for free?
  • What activities enthrall you?
  • What in life do you find irresistible, a source of inspiration, a reason to get out of bed?
  • What dream do you chase?
  • What topics do you love to discuss and ponder?
  • What’s your primal source of joy?

Over the years as an athletic trainer and public speaker, Carroll has transformed his philosophy into seven simple rules that any successful leader will endorse:

1) Commit to it-It requires commitment to pursue your life’s work, despite the naysayers.

2) Seek out encouragers-Sustaining your life’s work cannot be done alone.

3) Work out your creative muscle-Creativity and imagination will help you overcome some unexpected pitfalls.

4) Prepare to shine-Preparation means doing what I call the lonely work: the unglamorous tasks that no one tells you to do and the hard work that no one will notice.

5) Speak up-Challenge boundaries (respectfully) when they arise. There is always a way out.

6) Expect the unexpected-One way to embrace the unexpected is to be on the look-out for, and respect, coincidence.

7) Maximize the day-Each day contains 86,400 seconds, that is 86,400 opportunities to chase, kick, catch, and run after your red rubber ball.

Life Is Short!!!  I hope this post about The Red Rubber Ball will encourage you to seek after your dreams. I am definitely more of a visual learner.  Therefore,  I have a new red rubber ball hanging around my home to remind me to continue to be joyful and to keep my dreams alive.

My Red Rubber Ball is the Book Project I am working on about 

12 Lessons My Mama Taught Me.

What’s Yours!?!?

Past Posts About People Who Have Overcome Adversity In Their Lives:

Bridge Across My Sorrows

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

Brooke Ellison

Five Lessons From Oseola McCarty

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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….

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

SPEAK LIFE

Standing At The Crossroads Trying To Read The Signs

Your Messy, Complicated, Beautiful Life Story Matters

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Authentic Prayer

It Is Well With My Soul: So Hope Lives On

No One Visits The Mother Of An Addict

A Grace Disguised

Wrestling And Seeking

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

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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:

Four Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Music Moves Us

Your Beautifully, Messy, Complicated Life Story Matters

Authentic Prayer

We Can Get Advice From A Trail

How Do We Describe Grief?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

Five Ways To Love Well

Five More Ways To Love Well

A Grace Disguised

Run To The Roar

Where Is He?

Five Lessons From A Garden:Bloom Where You Are Planted

The Simple Things

Solitude:Seven Ways To Find It

Humble And Kind

Five Ways To Love Well

Musings On Marriage

We’ve Got Your Back

It Is Well With My Soul

Hope Amidst The Fragility of Life

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits One-Five

Ten Habits We May Regret: Habits Six-Ten

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I Am Still Confident Of This In The Land Of The Living Be Strong And Take Heart

To My Dear Friends of Pages From Joan: If you are new to my blog, I want to give you a big welcome and ask you to take a look at some previous, favorite posts I have linked for you at the end of this post. In addition, if a particular post speaks to your heart, I encourage you to share it with the ones you love! With Many Thanks, Joan

“I am still confident of this in the land of the living. Be strong and take heart.” Psalm 27:13-14

What do these words penned so long ago by David back between the time of Moses (around 1440 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.) mean?

'No matter where the poet (of Psalms) begins, he almost always ends in worship. This is no coincidence, this is where our journey must lead us. Augustine put it like this: 'Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.'' John Eldridge, from The Journey of Desire

God wants us to patiently wait upon Him, as we live out our earthly journey. He wants us to seek Him, as we gain strength from Him, and live with an authentic heart. Waiting for Him is not easy. Often it seems that He isn’t answering our prayers or doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation. That kind of thinking implies that God is not in control or is not fair. As believers, God is definitely worth waiting for. Lamentations 3:22-26 (one of my favorite passages) calls us to hope in and wait for the Lord because often God uses waiting to refresh, renew, and teach us. Let’s make good use of our waiting times as we discover what God may be trying to teach us in them.

With all the anxiety-provoking circumstances in our world, where do you and I turn for relief?

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither. C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)

The time was 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday. I was going around my home like an unbalanced, loon. Yes, I was going room-to-room, trying to find something important that I had misplaced, uttering an arrow (one I shoot straight up to heaven) prayer under my breath: “Please, Lord, can you help me locate this!?!”

I never did find what I was looking for, but I was thankfully able to reproduce the project with ease. Soon, I took my anxiety straight to my favorite chair in the den. Promptly flipping to Psalm 27:1-14, my heart began to quiet down as I read these words to myself:
New International Version
1The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:1-14

The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not. C. S. Lewis, British novelist and apologist (1898-1963)

As a believer, where do you and I store our Bible? I’ve found that when I keep mine easily accessible, I am more likely to be inspired to actually open it on a more regular basis.

The above passage, which I randomly turned to, by no coincidence truly calmed me down. As I got still, slowed myself from running to and fro around the house, my perspective on life changed, and I felt more prepared to face my new day. Perhaps God used my frantic searching to draw myself to Him. If so, it worked! Just like every other time I have sought Him, I found Him.

On more than 250 million devices, and with an estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, the Bible is widely considered to the best-selling book of all time. It sells approximately 100 million copies annually. (Wikipedia)

Isaiah 64:8 “Yet, you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we ARE ALL the WORK of your hand.” (a creation by my sis, Laura Lea)

Where will you and I turn in times of uncertainty and anxiousness in the days and months ahead of us. How will we reach out in His direction when we are at a loss about which way to turn. My prayer for you and for me is that we will more often open The Word and feast upon His wisdom!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

It Is Well With My Soul

Wrestling And Seeking

Fertile Prayers

6 Ways We Can Relieve Stress Starting Today

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Fill Your Love Tank

Humble and Kind

Check This Out! Steal, Still, Steel

Authentic Prayer

Where Is He?

How The Soul Grows Through Loss

5 Lessons From A Horse

Ten Ways To Value A Teen

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

We Are Called To Be Brave

8 Traits Of An Authentic, Successful Woman

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Some Significant Serious Fog In My Path What Are Your Roadblocks?

The fog on my path to class.

I encountered some significant, serious fog in my path while traveling to school on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

After my recent week spent in a Write From The Heart writing class at The John C. Campbell Folk School in N.C., I posted a blog about obstacles in our life journey. Click here to read the earlier post called: What Are The Roadblocks In Our Path?

The day following the “tree obstacle”, on Wednesday morning, the fog was incredibly dense. I could only see directly in front of my headlights. I had to pause for a moment on the side of the road to take this shot as my mind considered the traveling obstacle before me.

Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and arriving early enough for Morning Song at 7:45, I slipped into a cold metal folding chair. I was just in time to hear song composer/musician, Dawn Davis ask a question of the sleepy audience:

“I need a volunteer to give me a random phrase. It can be about anything. Casey, can you give me one?”

“Hmmmmm, how about ‘The fog lifted.’? answered Casey, a young lady who was living on campus for 9 weeks as part of the Work Study Program.

At the JCC Folk School, Musician and Composer, Dawn Davis inspired us at Morning Song with FOUR different instruments! Guitar, fiddle, celtic harp and piano.

Dawn’s guitar began to strum as she hummed and began composing a song about the fog. A song, that soon had lyrics that we all sang together.

A song composed and shared by musician, Dawn Davis.

That random phrase resonated with my heart, as I considered the connection between the fog and the obstacle that was in my path just the day before.

“The Fog Lifted.” Perhaps this would be a new motto for my life, a new tagline for me to live each day by. As in,’ this too will pass’, the fog will always lift over time. 

How does one decide to live this way? With confidence that the obstacle  will be removed from my path soon enough, that the fog will lift in due time?

This reminds me of another one of my Mama’s golden nuggets of wisdom. In good times as well as discouraging times, I want to have guarded optimism that all circumstances will work out.

There is no rushing through and beyond the obstacles, in our day, such as trees and fog. Meantime, applying this to our life, I encourage you and I to focus on one of my all time most beloved scriptures:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1; 10

What are the roadblocks in your life and in mine? Are they long-term obstacles? Short-term? Are they there to help us to slow down, to remind us to take our time, to initiate meditation with God?  Perhaps obstacles show up to teach us something about ourselves, such as the fear factor I shared in my roadblocks post.

Whatever the reason for the snags, the obstructions, the complications in our daily journey, let’s begin to look at these as opportunities for growth, rather than a big ‘ole fat interruption!

As we move on through Holy Week, looking ahead to Friday, and then Easter Sunday, I am certain that the disciples and other followers of Christ considered his death on the cross a huge, hurtful hindrance in their path. And then Sunday came! Easter, “the Superbowl” of our shared faith.   Christ rose from the dead just as he had promised!

As you consider the obstacles in your own path, know that they are temporary and continue to keep the faith!

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Music Moves Us

6 Life Lessons From The Slopes

Every Beating Heart Has A Story

Bridge Across My Sorrows

Brooke Ellison

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

What’s Happiness? What’s Joy?

Special Needs?

How To Respond To Travel Stress

We Are Called To Be Brave

8 Traits Of An Authentic, Successful Woman