A SPOT OF SUNSHINE Let's Watch For Them

With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.

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

As a sixty-something woman, I am  grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.

As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Watch For Them.

Taylor’s Ride with dear friends. October 2018.

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Mustard-Sized Faith

Musings On Marriage

What Is Happening? Write It Down.

A Loving Eulogy for My Father

25 Memories From This Mama’s Heart

Five Reasons We Should Volunteer

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

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‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”

Five  years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:

God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.

At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:

Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013

Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960

I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement.  Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.

From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan.  A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!

These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.

When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.

Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:

“Be still and know that I am God.”

In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948.  Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.

I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:

Autumn Leaves

“Since you went away the days grow long,
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.
But I miss you, most of all my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.”
 

I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!

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The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

“The Sandwich Technique” is a mindful, sensitive communication strategy which everyone (including sensitive people) can use to transform the relationships with their partner, friends, family, and co-workers.

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

This technique is not intended to be fake or simply to placate others. Being brutally direct can backfire and make people feel defensive and unable to hear your comments (no matter how useful they are).

When you use The Sandwich Technique, make requests not demands. Then, when you are communicating about a difficult issue, you sandwich the request between two positive statements. It’s a creative way of presenting challenging topics so that others can hear you. Let’s say you need more alone time. First you could say, “I appreciate all your support and I need your help with this.” Then place your request: “It would be great I can take more alone time to decompress. This will help me be even more present with you later.”

You empower your relationships by expressing your needs. Also, relationships thrive on both people feeling accepted. One patient told me, “My husband accepts me as I am. Through his acceptance I have learned to be true to myself.”

We all have issues to resolve in relationships no matter how good the match. To do this, we need to have loving, creative conversations.

The Sandwich Technique is a great way to have an important discussion with someone you care about.

When is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?

I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it. 

― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865) 

Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.

It has also been identified as “the elephant in the room”.

The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.

Positive***Negative***Positive

and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship. “The Sandwich” is a super great way to have that courageous conversation without hurting someone’s feelings.

I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.

Let’s Start Today!

October Breezes In Like An Old Friend "Ode To October"

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While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!

Now, if someone would just remind the weather forecast that October has arrived!

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Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:

October
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.

Robert Frost

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Another October birthday buddy, Delores, texted me this picture from her East Tennessee Home! So beautiful!

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“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown

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“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne

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“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale

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October second is a day of celebrations! Our wedding, our friend, Kelly’s birthday and The Gillams’ son, Brook’s special day, too!

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!

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A Beautiful October

If You Can’t Find The Answer LIVE YOUR QUESTION

An anonymous poet once said:

“Sometimes when you don’t know the answer, live the question.”

Many tried to tell me how I might feel as a first-time grandmother.  Most exclaimed that there were no words that could describe this new relationship. I agree. I do have occasional questions about these little ones’ future. Okay, the truth is that my thoughts surround Tripp, Elizabeth and their parents, constantly, lol. Our lives have changed forever since the births of our first two grands: Michael Scott Andrews, lll (Tripp) and Elizabeth Noel Page, respectively on 8/24/18 and 9/7/18. Our grand babies are pictured here during their nightly bath time.

Elizabeth Page
Tripp Andrews

Will they grow strong and will they be brave enough for this tough world we reside in? Will they truly know how much I love and cherish them? How will they face life challenges that are sure to come? What will they be? I find myself praying for Elizabeth and Tripp fervently each day. My Mama did the same for her children, her grands, and her great-grands.

In over six decades of living,  I have come to realize many things. More than ever before, I have seen that sometimes the questions that we have in this life do not have answers that are easy to uncover…

WHY did someone have to die so soon?
WHY can’t _____ and _____ get along better?
WHY does this habit have such a strong hold on me?
WHY is this loved one living with a disability?
WHY was my husband unfaithful to me? OR
WHY did my husband die so young leaving me with the children?
FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME OF YOUR WHYS:_______________________________

As we journey through life, I think it is important to pray and talk to trustworthy friends, and perhaps even a counselor, about the issues in our lives.

Still,  sometimes the answers just don’t come this side of heaven.
So what do we do?

WE LIVE THE QUESTION. We submit ourselves to the truth that we do not know the answer and we live the question, recognizing that the question may always be with us.
In the book CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE, By, Richard Foster, the author speaks to this on page 111:

“I said that every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even a lifetime, in a perpetual stew because something did not go as they wished. They will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. They may even get an ulcer, develop health problems over it.”

So, today, take a few moments to consider what “questions” have been gnawing at you, and make the choice to simply breathe and live out your days with an understanding that some of the “answers” are not for us to know just now.

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

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October Musings

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  Dr. Seuss
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”  George Burns
As a now 60-year-old girl, my life these days is full of musings.  I am sure this has a lot to do with more than six decades of living gone by, with a variety of sweet memories and sad remembrances.  A musing is defined as a period of reflection and thought.
 “October is the one month when temperatures moderate in the daytime and invigorate us in the evening.  This month and change in the weather is conducive to reflective thought, exhilarating exercise, outdoor labor, charitable endeavor, courtships and pleasant romps with babies and small children.” ~Russell Baker, NYTimes, Ode to October~
 Just sitting still for a few minutes on this beautiful October day, my mind wanders back to when our children were small and there was little time to be still and dream.  Life was all a whirlwind, active and full.
Leah and Walker 1992.
Our life today, though definitely different, is just as much fun, but only if my husband and I make a conscious effort for it to be so.   As true empty nesters, we prepare light evening meals to share followed by a 40 minute walk in our neighborhood or at nearby Kennesaw Mountain. We both enjoy the football season, time with friends,  frequent visits to nearby Blue Ridge Lake, and we’re now planning more visits than ever to St. Louis.  This weekend we will join our long-time friends, Kelly and Paul Read, along with many others to participate in the 4th Annual “Rails To River” Taylor Read Memorial Bike Ride. Riding eight miles from the trailhead in Abingdon, VA, we will end up at Taylor’s Shelter from the Storms of Life. A shelter, designed by Taylor’s sis, Megan, that is like no other. We always love celebrating Taylor’s life well lived in early October.
With this new season, we are grateful to have one grandchild nearby, Tripp Andrews (now nearly a six-week-old) and Elizabeth Page, who lives with her parents in Missouri (now nearly one month old).
With this new season upon us, we are reminded once again how swiftly the seasons go by.
Both our daughter and our son married high school best friends in 2014, and now both families have grown to include a tiny baby. While our son, Walker and his bride live more than 500 miles away, our daughter, Leah and her husband are nearby.  We will celebrate Leah’s 30th birthday this Monday, October 8th! Life is Good. Just as we started our lives as a young family more than 36 years ago, the four of them are beginning theirs.
The beat goes on…
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Why I Write Musings Of The Heart

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”  

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and poet (1803-1882)

I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough,  hosted by Positive Writer. You can check out  the Positive Writer website here!

I have always loved to write. Writing as an adult has helped me and continues to help me face unimaginable fears. Fear stops people from writing. My mind has habitually been an inquisitive one…”why this?” and “why that?”

Writing helps me to seek (and sometimes even find) answers to the big questions of living in this world…questions that most who have a beating heart have, too. Viktor Frankl was one of those who struggled with the big questions as he was in captivity in Auschwitz and Dachau. He penned some of his questions and answers in the beloved book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl is known for the quote: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”

IMG_0626I have written in my personal journal for the past twenty-five years, since 1989. It is intriguing to go back many years and read documented details of days in the life of our family. If you have never kept a journal, it’s not too late! You may want to consider starting one in 2019. There is no pressure in keeping your own personal account. You can pen a few sentences or a paragraph every three to four days and that will be enough to bring times that have passed back into your memory bank.

“Down here at the sea, early this morning while my family still sleeps. I just read Chapter Five, Oyster Bed, from Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea.  Love her reminders about Middle Age and amazed they are still so applicable today….p. 85 a quote from author Virginia Woolf who meets middle age admitting:  ‘Things have dropped for me. I have outlived certain desires…I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy.” (tho I’m quite sure Walker Page WILL!)  DP just finished “When Crickets Cry” by Charles Martin, and really enjoyed it. It was recommended to him by our good friends, Jane Ellen and Sandy, in addition to myself. I hope to do a quick reread of it since it has been 2-3 years since I read it. I really want to discuss it with DP. I’ve also been rereading Gordon Macdonald’s “Ordering your Private World.” Even though it was written in 1984, the message to me here is more important than ever: p.8 “I have discovered that to bring organization to the private world where Christ chooses to live is BOTH a lifelong and a daily matter.”

an excerpt from my journal dated 8/5/11

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I write because when I do, I literally lose myself for the time period in which I am writing. I believe that to be a good thing. We can all benefit from a recreational activity that we’re passionate about. Writing is that for me.

Writing involves some time researching whatever I’m choosing to write about. Come what may, I’m interested in researching the whats, the whys, the hows, the whens, and the wheres surrounding a variety of circumstances in life.

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I love, love, love reading. Reading is an important and essential part of the writing process. Just ask my husband how many books arrive in our snail mail in a month’s time! I also hang out regularly at our local library. Books fill our shelves and they fill my heart too.

One of my favorite things to write would have to be notes and letters.

I mean U.S. Postal Service letters! (receiving them is nice, too!) My sister, Laura Lea and I frequently mail our thoughts back and forth even though our homes are only 45 miles apart. My friend, Marie, whom I have known for over 3 decades, lives only an hour from my home but we have become regular pen pals over the years and I cherish her newsy notes to me. I definitely got this, like many things, from my dear Mama.

At her funeral in 2006, her pastor asked how many folks in the congregation had ever received a note, card, or letter from Polly…nearly every one of the more than 200 raised their hands. I love to write because the right words can touch a heart and soul.

One can be so encouraged after receiving some hand-written correspondence. If you have a college student in your family, aging parents, or even a young couple who lives out-of-town, consider writing them a personal letter now and then.

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“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German playwright, poet, novelist, dramatist (1749-1832)

“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.” 

Charlie Brown

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Time-Out

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Have you ever put yourself in Time-Out? I am about to do that very thing for the next few weeks. In the days ahead, I hope to pay less attention to the outside world and more attention to our household…”tidying up” each and every space…Therefore, I am taking a short sabbatical from my blog. I am hopeful the end result will be uncluttered spaces and an uncluttered mind, too!

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Meanwhile, don’t forget to pause when you see that sun rising and setting. This was a couple of nights ago here in Marietta, Georgia. Take time for breathing exercises to help you catch your breath, and Be Good to Yourself!IMG_8623Here is the book I am using for inspiration, suggested by my friend, Rebecca, writer of a great blog called In A Southern Kitchen-Doing Life Together. IMG_8625The author, Marie Kondo proposes that the reader hold up items found in the home and ask the question:

“Does This Spark Joy?”

Having raised two children in this home, we have tons of keepsakes, just as I bet you do, too…I am hoping to rid our home of the items that do not spark JOY. See you! Stay tuned! I look forward to rejoining you soon with some posts that will inspire, encourage and help us to learn new things.IMG_8637