With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
Many may wonder why should we volunteer? When asked about why a group of folks took time out each week to volunteer, the answers were inspiring. To feel needed, to share a skill, to get to know a community different from myself, to demonstrate commitment to a cause or a belief, to gain leadership skills, and to accomplish a civic duty.
Volunteers are love in motion.
Five Reasons We Should Volunteer:
(1) Studies have shown that volunteers live longer and healthier lives.
(2) Volunteering can help you establish strong relationships.
(3) Volunteering can complement your career.
(4) Volunteering helps society.
(5) Volunteering gives you a strong sense of purpose.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Anyone who has done any amount of volunteeringfor any measure of time would likely agree that when we give to others with our heart that we can reap benefits which are glorious and unimaginable. Simply being a good listener, expressing joy and humor, or offering a genuine, friendly smile, can contribute to lighting up another person’s life. Volunteering can have many surprising benefits!
One cool thing about volunteering is that you can choose an area that you are passionate about. Your love for animals could lead to spending some time helping out at a rescue shelter or a Veterinarian’s office. If reading inspires you, spend some time reshelving books at your local library. Are you an empty nester who misses having little ones in your home, then consider contacting a local indigent hospital, like Grady Memorial Hospital. Here, you may be able to rock babies one afternoon a week. In my recent past, I have chosen The Extension as one of my main volunteer opportunities for Volunteerism since it opened in 2009. The raw courage exhibited by the women who reside there has always challenged me in my personal journey.
Oh, and volunteering does not have to be a weekly commitment. It may involve simply providing a meal for a family who is dealing with adversity, join a Mission Team abroad or near home, or simply giving a ride to someone who needs one. Just being on the look out for who’s in your path, you will soon see many ways to lend a hand.
Studies have shown that volunteering is particularly beneficial to adults age 65 and older, and those who serve more than 100 hours each year. Volunteers are more likely to report a greater sense of well-being, and of purpose and meaning in their lives, than nonvolunteers. Older adults, who may be prone to social isolation, volunteering can offer strong social networks and a way to stay active in the community. Our parents were a great example of this as volunteers for Meals On Wheels late in their lives.
There has been a debate for some time now regarding whether or not high schoolers should be required to earn a certain number of community service hours. While time management is a real issue, having raised two young adults, we have seen significant benefits of their involvement in their community and beyond. There are many of the positives that can come from your teen being involved in service, whether it is required, or not. I am proud to know 18-year-old Aidan, who is on a mission to share the joy and necessity of giving to all. Aidan is a speaker, singer, and songwriter and you can like his Facebook page here. Aidan’s website is Aidan Cares.
I would love to hear in the comments below what you have chosen to do as a volunteer.
If you haven’t gotten involved as a volunteer, why not consider starting today?
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive, and they live forever, no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
“Please tell me a story.” was a common request in our home back in the day when our kids were little. Here, you will learn about some wooden toys to use during story time that will add imagination in play! In case your time is short, and you want to go straight to The Wooden Storyteller site, click here. You will love these!
Story time is such a great time for connection, teaching, and halting the rush, if only for a few minutes, that we all seem to be experiencing these days.
Do you currently have little ones that are an important part of your life?
I hope you will check out these creative wooden storyteller pieces that your children and grandchildren will surely delight in.
My niece, Rachael along with her husband, Thomas are the creators of some amazing “hands on” toys that you just might want to add to your list for the little ones that you love. Read on to learn how they were inspired to start their little, growing business:
“We are a Southern family living in the Pacific Northwest. We have one son, Titus, who is three years old. “Mama, I strong. I wild. I fierce.” Thank you little one.
My husband, Thomas, started making toys for our son’s play. He would need a boat for his men or a monster for the sea. We began to get compliments and people were shocked when they discovered we made them ourselves. We soon had orders from family and friends. We knew we were on to something and the rest is history.
We honor both free play and storybooks. We believe storytelling is the perfect mix of the two. Telling your child a story while acting it out only solidifies the tale. When your child retells a story and plays it back out….something magical happens. They make this tale their own. This is imaginative narration in play, and it is so good.
We keep our wooden toys simple. We desire children to have toys that are both visually and tactically beautiful. We want children to explore with creative thought and to learn truth from stories. We believe children should get the quality of the toy and the quality of the story.
We would love to hear from you! Happy Storytelling!”
They offer a number of story pieces including Jonah and the whale, The Nativity Story, The 3 Little Pigs, and many more. Each set comes in its own drawstring bag to keep the story pieces together. They can also make special orders that you do not find in their current collection.
I saw a movie this past Tuesday night that was offered up for a two-night showing by Fathom Events. The next one is scheduled for October 6, 2016, if you decide you want to see it after reading this. The title of the movie is “To Joey, With Love”. Have you heard this story? You may have followed their journey on Rory’s Blog, This Life I Live.
Telling the truth and being real; feeding my family a home-cooked meal, that's important to me. That's important to me. Joey Feek
Seeing it has given me just one more certain reminder that every beating heart has a story, and Rory Feek, Joey’s husband wanted to be sure his late wife’s story was told. And now, I feel compelled to share it here with you.
Seeing this reminded me that none of us know how our stories will go. Life is full of uncertainty; with no way to foresee what challenges or blessings await us. But as Rory shares this story, he assures us that though we may not know our story that is to come, we can trust, and hope, and have faith that God will bring “good” to our story, whatever that may turn out to mean.
“Some may have the wrong idea about the Christian life. Once they become believers, they may expect “smooth sailing”. Yet, God makes it clear from the beginning of the Word to the end that troubles are inevitable for those who call themselves His. Christ’s life was no exception: He endured false accusations, rejections by His own people, and betrayal by a close friend-to name just a few. As His followers, we expect difficulty. We can choose to look elsewhere for comfort, or we can use our hardship as a source of growth. No matter how painful the trial seems, let’s not waste the opportunity.” Dr. Charles Stanley
If we knew what was going to happen around the corner, we wouldn't get up in the morning.
My Mama, Polly Shivers Walker
You see, Joey and Rory Feek were married in 2002, and had their first child together, Indiana in February of 2014. Before parenthood, Joey and Rory had made quite a name for themselves as a country and bluegrass duo, but together they decided to take some time off on their Tennessee farm to bond with their newborn baby girl, Indy. Without telling you their whole story, I am hoping I have told you just enough to peak your interest, so that you might google them, or even better, find a theater that is showing their story on October 6, 2016. More than 750 theaters had a showing on the night that I went. You can click here to find tickets by putting in your zip code: A Story of Life, Love and Hope, that never dies.
Sometimes when you don't know what to say, you don't know what to pray, these hymns help. The hymns are here for us in the really tough times.
Feeling broken hearted and blessed all at the same time this morning...watching my beautiful bride pour a lifetime of LOVE into a few minutes.
Rory Feek, March 2016, in Joey's last earthly days
Yet you, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.
As I often say, life is not a dress rehearsal, it’s the real thing! Rory Feek shared that Joey lived several months longer than expected, but every single day, she LIVED. Just like she lived before she was ill, as though each day was her last. Do you and I live each day like that? I don’t, but I want to. Let’s Just Do It!
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38 New International Version
This past Saturday was a special evening in my life.
The event was called Art With A Heart and there were so many giving hearts that night, including our dear and talented friend, David Brewer who played a keyboard for us, along with artist, Dirk Walker who painted the evening “live” for us, and Donna, gallerist since 2008, who graciously opened her gallery space for us to gather in. There were delectable desserts donated by Gabriel’s Desserts and Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes. In addition, Deb Willyard of Blue Dragonfly Catering prepared many delicious treats. The evening could not have come about without the tireless help from our small committee, Donna, Deb, Tina, and Cher. An alumni from The Extension, Abby, bravely shared her story with our guests. We also had other much loved artists present, Holly Irwin, Susan Easton Burns, and Thomas Arvid, all who offered their amazing work as auction items to benefit the women at The Extension. Thanks to all who attended or made donations to this cause.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
This coming Saturday, September 24, 2016, there will be a Yard Sale to benefit The Barbara J. Crafton’s Women Extension located in Marietta, Georgia. This center is a safe haven, a residential refuge for women who are dealing with the disease of alcoholism and/or drug abuse.
And if you live nearby, YOU can help!
Many of our friends have been downsizing and moving into smaller homes, so if this describes you, you may have already given most of your unused items away. But if you do have a few things to give, that would be great!
I have decided that keeping a home organized is definitely a life-long project. I wrote about this in an earlier post entitled 10 Things That Organized People Do Every Day. Now, I have to say, I do not do these things daily, but it is a good goal to work towards.
So if at all possible, show up with a few household items that still have some life in them. These will be sold to benefit the brave and warrior women I have had the privilege to work with for the past six years.
Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.
Donny and I took a short trip to St. Louis, Missouri this past weekend to visit our son and his bride of nearly two years. Though the flight was short, the turbulence was worse than usual, causing the attendants to suspend beverage service for awhile. In addition, the landing was one of the most tumultuous we’ve experienced. Still, as we exited the plane, as always, I thanked the attendants, and I looked straight into the Captain’s eyes, saying, “Thank you for the safe travel.” Some of them are surprised by my statement, but all seem to appreciate it. You may want to try this the next time you step off an airplane! I never want to take traveling mercies for granted, another lesson my Mama taught me.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
Arriving at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday gave us a nice long visit with our children, Walker, a Ph.D Philosophy student at SLU (Saint Louis University) and Jessica, a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Jess is also working on a Masters in Nursing Education. Jessica’s birthday was the Wednesday before our arrival, so we got to celebrate with her! Both carved out time from work and studying to play with us for the weekend! We love the old architecture and homes scattered through this Midwestern U.S. city. We visited them Easter 2015 and you can read about that visit by clicking here.
Did you know? In 1904, St. Louis hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics, becoming the first non-European city to host the Olympics.
The best part of our entire weekend away was just being together. Whether we were sharing a meal, getting a haircut, loving on Louis the cat, planting flower pots, playing cards, hanging out talking, or heading to church.
I sustain myself with the love of family.
After a special time with our family, it was good to return to our home, even with all the congestion and traffic. “There’s no place like home.”
Thanks, Walker and Jess for your awesome hospitality! We look forward to our next trip when Leah and Scott can join us!