How Do We Describe Grief?

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This picture was taken on a hike with Taylor’s friends.

Sorrows cannot all be explained away…In a life truly lived, grief and loss accumulate like possessions.” Stephan Kanfer

How do we describe grief? How do we express how much we miss someone’s presence in our days? Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. The reasons for grief are many, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the letting go of a long-held dream. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life.

I can easily recall after my Mama passed on in October, 2006, there was a physical aching in my heart, a pain I had never experienced before. I knew then a little more about what grief was.  When our much-loved nephew, Brad died in April, 2009, our family learned more about this process of grief. We held onto each other a little tighter after that. My Daddy went on to join Mama in November, 2013, so I have had a glimpse of what grief is about. Like you, I have lost friends who have meant the world to me. Some of you have lost a beloved spouse. Grief is something we would definitely never invite in, but something we are all called to experience at one time or another.

Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” Frederick Buechner

Unlike many of you who are reading this, I have never walked through the loss of a child.  I can only imagine that losing one of our children would be like losing a limb, or worse. That is where our dear friends, The Reads are today, on March 7, 2016. They are looking at the calendar, recognizing this date and marking the first anniversary of their son, Taylor’s passing at the young age of 23.

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Taylor (left) with his buddy, Josh, since 2nd grade loved boarding!

Taylor Heston Read will always be remembered as a kind, strong, athletic, funny, loving young man, and he will be missed forever. Taylor’s parents, five grandparents, friends and relatives, including his sister, Megan know they will see him again, as they look ahead with godly confidence of this truth. I miss Taylor, too! You see, Taylor’s parents and I first met when we were just starting college at Tennessee Tech University back in the 70’s. Kelly and I bonded quickly as ADPis and went on to stand alongside each other in our 1982 weddings, vacationed together and yes, raised our children together.

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So thankful for these friends! Our Wedding Day on 10/2/1982.
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Daddy, Paul has floor play with Taylor and Meg.
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Baseball! Taylor with his cousins!

Taylor was a precious little brunette baby boy. A tall young man, I’ll always remember Taylor as a gentle giant, with a comforting smile. His many friends, both guys and girls, describe Taylor as a caring soul, as “the one who looked after me,” … a bridge over troubled water.

The remembrance of Taylor will forever kindle fondness, smiles, and pure love by so many of us still here on earth…

In response to Taylor’s passing, his family soon began to consider how they wanted to mark the memory of his life here while having a positive impact on their beautiful community of Abingdon, Virginia.

Before long, it became apparent that a shelter on the Virginia Creeper Trail would be designed by Taylor’s gifted sister, Megan. The construction began soon after.

~~~~~~~A Labor Of Love~~~~~~~

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The first annual “Rails To River” bike ride fund-raiser for Taylor was scheduled for October 3, 2015. When the day arrived, all plans were in place…the t-shirts had been sorted, the BBQ lunch was simmering, and the weather in Virginia was trying to put a damper on the plans. Even a cold and rainy forecast didn’t stop the fifteen plus riders on the trail who made the 8 mile trek to Taylor’s Shelter for the very first time. A huge crowd turned out to support this family and the trail. The stormy weather couldn’t block the sun from popping out just in time for the dedication of this creative retreat, this refuge from the storms of life for generations to come.

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Donny and Paul…Taylor’s Shelter From The Storm
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The shelter sits beside the Holston River.

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Kelly and Meg are bundled up for the ride.
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Lisa was such a big help in organizing the ride!
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T-SHIRTS!
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The Pages and The Reads are ready to roll!
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Donny with Taylor’s sign.
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The Ride!
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WE LOVE THE TRAIL!

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What a group!
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Kelly, love her so much!
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Taylor’s Aunt Allison and cousin, Katherine weather the storm.
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Zach traveled from CA to be a part of the ride for Taylor!
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Thumbs Up with Zach and Josh upon their arrival to Taylor’s Shelter!
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Paul shares with the crowd at the dedication.

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Great Friends Gather, while Mike and Greg photobomb!
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A great spot for Taylor’s Shelter!
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Becky and Leslie take time out at Taylor’s Shelter.
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This awesome place is right on the trail!
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After many meetings and a lot of effort, Kelly and Lisa give the day a “thumbs up”!
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Kelly and Joan at Taylor’s Shelter.
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Joan and Susan gather flowers from the BBQ lunch.

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Donny and I cannot wait for our next bike ride to Taylor’s Shelter over Easter Weekend, 2016!

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This portrait, a gift from Taylor’s friends is lovingly hung in The Read Home.
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Friend, Kelsey, takes time out in Taylor’s Shelter.

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How do we describe grief? I do not know, but I do know how to describe a response to grief. In one word, The Read Family has chosen to respond with HOPE. Rest In Peace, Taylor Heston Read, a life well lived.

In addition to knowing we will all go through grief, we also know that our time to die will come, as well.  I read a great article published this past week, “On the Day I Die”, by, John Pavlovitz. Click here to read it.

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Kelly and Meg take time out in Taylor’s Shelter wrapped in a prayer shawl, a gift from precious friend, Ellen.

A New Angel From Indiana My Memories As An Educator

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1980’s Avondale Elementary
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1980’s Avondale Elementary

There is a new angel from Indiana, and the sudden passing of Mrs. Susan Jordan got me thinking about my career as an educator.

Nearly three decades ago, after several years as a Classroom Teacher, I found myself in a Lead Teacher for Student Services (LTSS) position at Avondale Elementary, in DeKalb County.

I want to leave a legacy. How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Nichole Nordeman's song, Legacy

 As a LTSS, one of my main responsibilities was to be a liaison between the home and the school. Many of our students did not have home phones or cars, so connecting with the parents proved to be very difficult. The “teacher’s note” did not always arrive into the hands of the Mom of the home. Emails and texts were nonexistent. I loved this job and one of my favorite parts of it was to be on bus duty every morning and every afternoon, without fail.

When our friends, Ed and Cathy announced in our small group at church recently that a former principal of their daughter’s, Mrs. Susan Jordan was killed in a freak accident related to bus duty, my heart went straight back to those years of greeting and giving farewells to our students day in and day out.

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Susan Jordan will be greatly missed!

On January 26, 2016, Jordan died instantly while pushing school children out of harm’s way when a bus jumped the curb in front of the school. The principal at Amy Beverland Elementary School, for nearly two decades, Jordan was beloved by all, students, parents, and staff, alike. Susan Jordan, age 69, has left a legacy that will be emulated and remembered for generations to come. This is such a devastating story, a tremendous loss, for sure. It is also a good reminder that this life is no dress rehearsal, and we only get one chance to leave the kind of legacy we would like to leave.

What Kind Of Legacy will you and I leave behind when it is our time to pass on?

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What Is It Like To Be Ninety? Check Out This List

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What is it like to be ninety? Though my Daddy lived to be age 93, in my late fifties now, I honestly have no idea what it is like to be ninety years old…

I enjoyed talking to a friend of mine at a Christmas Open House all about the aging process. My friend, Gerry, who is in her seventies told me that an Orthopedic Surgeon friend of hers told her this: “If you wake up and you’re not in pain, you’re dead.” We had a good laugh over that and I have to admit I have repeated it a time or two for more chuckles. It’s a known fact that things tend to hurt more as we age.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NLT

As long as I am healthy, I hope to see my ninth decade. Even though I am not yet a Grandmother, that would be pretty cool to not only be a Grandma, but to also have a chance to be a Great-Grandma! Very few of us are blessed with this privilege. It is truly remarkable that George and Barbara Bush reached their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this month.  That is a lot of living!

I recently ran across a list of 42 life lessons 90-year-old Regina Brett of Cleveland, Ohio said that life has taught her. While I don’t have the space to list them all, I picked some of my favorite lessons:

  • Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  • When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  • Pay off your credit cards every month.
  • Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
  • It’s okay to let your children see you cry.
  • Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present. Youth is the time to study wisdom, old age is the time to practice it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  • If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
  • It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.
  • Over prepare, then go with the flow.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
  • Believe in miracles.
  • Growing old beats the alternative-dying young.
  • Your children get only one childhood.
  • If we threw all our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
  • No matter how you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up.
  • Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it is still a gift.

What might you and I take from this list

and begin to incorporate into our days?

My Heart Will Go On

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On January 14, 2016, Rene Angelil, husband of Celine Dion, lost his battle with throat cancer.

I will perform My Heart Will Go On for the rest of my life and it will always remain a very emotional experience for me.” Celine Dion 

 Angelil was 73. Did you know? Before he was married to Celine Dion in 1994, he mortgaged his home to help her gain stardom? Celine, a Canadian was the youngest of 14 in her French-speaking home. Once Angelil learned about her amazing voice, when she was only age 12, the rest was as they say, is history. Later, after working together for many years, they fell in love, married and have three boys together, Rene-Charles, age 14 and twins, Nelson and Eddy, age five. The memorial service was held at the  Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. Communion was served to the grieving family and the congregation.

Parting with someone who has brought such light and happiness into a life has to be one of the most difficult things about living. And yet, we all know that death IS part of life, and after parting, our hearts must, with bravery, go on. It seems I know many who are going through this very same experience themselves today. And Celine’s family had even more sorrow when two days following her husband’s service, her 59-year-old brother, Daniel lost his fight with cancer, too.

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This page was published in the 2/8/16 issue of PEOPLE magazine.

Click here to read an earlier post about how we can best help those who are going through this season of loss.

Fifteen years are not a long time for a son to get to know his father…but you’ve left me now with enough good memories of you to share with my younger brothers. As I grow older, without you being around, I’ll make sure to pass on what I’ve learned from you.” Rene-Charles Angelil, age 14 during his father’s eulogy on January 22, 2016

Fame cannot protect them from the season of grief they find themselves in. They have to walk through it, like all others who have suffered this great loss. Friends, family and faith can certainly help to ease the grief journey. I am sure Celine Dion and her boys will be greatly loved and supported as their hearts go on.

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Have A Care Kit Party Each One Reach One

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Maybe, just maybe, we will have a chance to “unplug” in the days ahead!

In case you missed it, my last post, Music Moves Us, made me think about another song which goes with the following thoughts:

Another Day In Paradise, by Phil Collins.

Many people across the U.S. today are bracing themselves for a wintry storm. The grocery store parking lots and aisles are packed. The cars are lined up outside the schools for early dismissals. The gloves, earmuffs and heavy coats have been unearthed for this mid-January flurry of activity. But what if you and I were homeless? Don’t you feel helpless waiting at that red-light when a homeless woman or man stands at the corner with a cardboard sign? I do!

Read ahead to learn about an easy way you can help that person the next time this happens.

Did you know that over 16,000 people were reportedly homeless in GEORGIA in a study done in January, 2013?

No one has ever become poor by giving.” Helen Keller 

Click here to read the 2015 report on homelessness in Georgia.

The unifying condition for virtually all of Georgia’s homeless population is poverty. Many people who are homeless also experience some type of personal vulnerability that places them at risk, such as:

  • Family violence
  • Physical disability or chronic medical problems
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Development disability or brain injury
  • Criminal background

Leah and I are planning to have a care kit party soon! If you have some unexpected, spare hours that pop up in the weekend ahead with this winter weather, perhaps you’d like to plan one with your kids, grandchildren, or friends, too!

If you cannot feed one hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa

 You can use Evite to invite your friends and delegate out items for each of them to bring. By the end of your party, you will all have a few care kits to keep in your car for the next time you see that homeless person on the corner at a red light. It is a very cool way to impact the homeless in our communities and have fun while doing it!

The following information was obtained by The Portland Rescue Mission website.

How To Pack A Care Kit

Care Kits are a simple way to provide practical help to a homeless man or woman. Keep some in your car so you’re prepared to offer to a person in need.

Items to Include:
A typical Care Kit consists of a watertight gallon-size zipper lock plastic bag filled with items like:

Water bottle
Socks
Tuna and crackers
Granola Bar or cereal bar
Fruit snack or applesauce cup
Crackers with peanut butter or cheese
Gift certificate to fast food
Hand wipes
Pack of Kleenex
Maxi pads
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Nail clippers
Band Aids
Chapstick
Comb or small brush
Mints, cough drops or gum
Rescue Mission meal voucher
Note of encouragement or uplifting Bible verse or young children can color a picture as you teach them about those in need. You may want to also include some information about homeless shelters in your area.

NOTE:
Fragranced items such as soap, hand lotion or deodorant can negatively affect the taste of food items if placed in the same bag. Pack these separately if you choose to give them.
Avoid items such as mouthwash or hand sanitizer that contain alcohol. 

There will always be poor among us.” Matthew 26:11

Have a Care Kit party! Gather family, friends, co-workers or your community group to purchase supplies and assemble Care Kits together.
Care Kits are useful both in warm and cold weather. In summer, include sunblock or frozen water bottles. In winter, include gloves, hats or heatpacks.

When you give your Care Kits away…

*Don’t be in a hurry. It’s okay to slip it out your window to someone on a street corner or freeway ramp. But consider taking time to park the car and hand-deliver it.
*Smile. This person probably gets ignored by hundreds of people every day.
*Make eye contact. It shows that the person matters.
*Don’t give money. It’s your decision, of course, but we generally discourage giving cash. Instead, ask what their immediate need is and consider how you can help. Buy them a meal? A bus ticket?
*Be available to have a conversation. Some people won’t want to talk, so be sensitive. Others will be delighted to tell you their story.
*Pray. Before you go, while you go, for the people you encounter. Ask the person if they would like you to pray for them right there.
*Offer resources. Ask if the person knows about local homeless shelters in the area. 
*Be wise. The majority of homeless men and women are not dangerous — they’re people just like you. But it’s smart to go out as a group when handing out Care Kits.
*Inspire others. Tell others about your project and inspire them to do the same.

It was good to see in the past week where two churches in our Cobb county community joined forces to aid the homeless in Atlanta, especially as the weather turned bitter cold. There will always be needs in our world and we may not be able to solve all the world problems, but we can encourage one soul with a care kit! Always make your personal safety a priority when helping those in need. And remember to involve the young people who are in your life. Our actions can speak louder than our words, especially for the youth who are watching us as we live out our days. Oh, and click here for one of my favorite stories from 2015 about my homeless friend, Pamela.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Eight Ways To Share With Others

My Own Little World

Joy Comes In The Morning

Open hands begging

Let’s Ask Ourselves: “Is It Really Worth The Fuss?”

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My husband, Donny and I were in a fuss this past Wednesday night. The basis for our discussion, our argument, is irrelevant, and frankly, it is personal, but it is relevant to the question: “Is It Really Worth The Fuss?” Married thirty-three years and 102 days, we rarely get into fusses, usually agreeing to disagree when we find ourselves in a debate. IMG_8429Later, as I pondered our dispute by myself, I wondered, “Is it really worth the fuss?” I mean really? [pullquote]Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss [/pullquote]WE are (and have been) on the same team for decades…so is it really worth it to expend a lot of energy on something that in the grand scheme of things matters not?

I mean I think we all have people in our lives who don’t respond to our reaching out to them, who basically don’t have an interest in our well-being, and yet, those who DO respond to our reaching out, those who DO have an interest in our well-being are the very ones we hurt by fussing with them. Is it really worth it?

I mean isn’t it ironic …we ignore (and fuss with) those who want us, want those who ignore us, love those who hurt us, and hurt those who love us.

Do you find yourself doing this sometimes? I do…not all the time, but enough to take note and work towards changing it! Are you with me?

Click here for Carole King’s “Brighter”.

Let’s ask ourselves the next time we start to argue with the people we love the very most in this whole wide world…Is it really worth it?

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Scores Of Warm Hands And One Warm Heart

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This week began with scores of warm hands and one very warm heart…

My phone rang unexpectedly at 7:15 on Monday morning. I was admittedly being lazy, after just driving in from Knoxville the night before. My husband, Donny, had forgotten his cell phone and there was no way, in his line of work, the day could continue without it. So what did I do, I heated up some coffee, grabbed the warmest things I could find for me, my hands, and my feet and jumped in our truck. In the early morning rush-hour, I got to catch a few views that I would’ve otherwise missed.IMG_8390 IMG_8394 IMG_8397The start of a new day, a new week. As I glanced at my dash, noting the 22 degrees showing there, my mind moved to the boxes in my back seat.

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donations from 12/22/15
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donations from 12/22/15
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donations from 12/22/15

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

You see, on December 22, 2015, we had a Christmas gathering and we encouraged our friends to bring canned goods, gloves, and warm hats for the people who are cared for through MUST Ministries. Since Donny’s office is right near this shelter, I knew I needed to head that way to distribute a few of these donations on this freezing Monday morning.IMG_8402

Now I realize the best way to “donate” is through the distribution site, but on this freezing morning all I could think of was frigid hands…Initially when I pulled up, there was no one there, but then a young man named Charlie came close enough for me to open the window and ask him if he could use some gloves. Charlie answered me, “Yes!”, cheerfully, and asked if he could have a hat and gloves for his mother who was accompanying him, and waiting for him,  just inside. Soon, there was a short line forming at the passenger side of our truck. Running out of men’s gloves before the line ran out, I promised them I would be back with more within the hour.

IMG_8407 IMG_8404Upon my return, again, probably because the temps were so low, there was no one there. Again, soon after my arrival, a few more who needed them came to receive this gift of warmth.  Thinking of Leah and Walker when they were young, and how during carpools we used to hand gloves out on freezing days, my heart was reminiscing with the memory. By 9:15 a.m. I was heading back home, knowing my husband had his phone and there were a lot of warmer hands and one very, very warm heart. Thanks to those who gave these hats and gloves so generously back in December! Some of the hats and gloves are only $2.00 each. Perhaps you’d like to keep a few in your car to give out when you see a need.

You might want to consider taking your children or grandchildren to pick some out for those in need. After all, children are like little sponges and teaching them about compassion when they are young is a wonderful thing! 

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two of the ladies and a child who received hats and gloves that day

Children: Let’s Listen To Them Like Mattie J.T. Stepanek


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Children. A topic that gets much attention for any number of reasons. I hope this post will be an encouragement to you as you interact with the children in your life journey.

Let’s listen to children like Mattie J. T. Stepanek. Five books written and illustrated by Mattie are available at Amazon.com, some for as little as $0.01 plus S/H. Responding to my latest post, What Feeds You and Me?, my friend, Jan Weber commented: “I have all of Mattie’s books and I am going to reread them again. Thanks for reminding us of that remarkable lil boy!”

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Yes, Mattie was a remarkable young man, wise beyond his years. Rereading much of Mattie’s lifework reminds me that I want to listen more to the children in my path. This life we live can preoccupy us and we have to keep in mind that children rely solely on us for their livelihood.  Children truly are like wet cement.

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Leah and Walker 1992
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Leah and Walker 1992

When our two were small, I had to constantly remind myself to not rush them…their little legs could only move so fast!

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

One tool that has always helped me, and still does to this day is deep breathing. Click here for details.

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November 1993, Walker, 20 months, Leah 5 years. Kennesaw Mountain National Park

If I was running late, it was not their fault, but mine. It always takes extra minutes to get shoes and socks on their small feet and arms through their tiny clothes. Having little ones can teach a Mom and Dad so much if they are listening.

As Mattie says,

“If I close my eyes and sit very still,

it’s so easy to listen to my heart song.”

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Don and our great-nephew, August, listen to heart songs together.

IMG_8208 IMG_8241 IMG_8247As I’ve sat with Donny’s Father this past week, I’ve been reminded of being a Mommy to two young children. Those who are aging with dementia, like Don, are much like young children.

Thanks for sharing this. I have read his books. I Google the interview that Oprah did with Mattie and his mother whenever I need to slow down and put life into perspective. Heartsongs sits on an end table at home for the purpose of starting a conversation which leads to inspiration.

Both take enormous patience and extra time to get their points across to the listener. Are you “listening” to the children in your life? As Mattie illustrates here, they have much to say to us and to the world as they grow.IMG_8238

As you and I slow down,

whose heartsong

might we hear?

As we stay too busy with

our days,

our smart phones,

our schedules,

our lives,

whose heartsong might we miss?

I hope at some point, you will take 10 minutes to click here to watch a video about this extraordinary young man.

It is a “must-see”, if you are at all interested in having a clearer understanding of what a heartsong really is. P.S. be sure to have some tissues nearby.

Click here to listen to one of my favorite Casting Crown songs:

LET MY LIFESONG SING TO YOU.

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“Remember to play after every storm.” Love, Mattie

Previous Posts That You May Have Missed:

Fill Your Love Tank

Hurting Hearts, Painful Paths

Four Ways To Love Our Peeps

Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

Children Are Wet Cement

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