Monday, April 8, 2019

A Ministry Journey

Last week I was asked to record my personal story of becoming an ordained minister.  A friend is compiling stories to be included in a book which will be presented to other female ordination candidates this spring.  

It was good for me to look back at some of the steps that led me to becoming a woman in full-time ministry.  I realized today, some of you might find a word of encouragement in the story as well.  So here it is.  Hope you enjoy!

“Quick, Sheri!  We need someone to cover the junior girls’ class. Come with me.”  My dad was motioning to me from the doorway of my own Sunday school class.  I followed him down the hall and stepped into my destiny.

I was only fifteen when I later became the official teacher for the six, seven and eight-year-old girls’ group.  It was a position I filled until I left home for college. The joy I felt each week as they caught a concept or heard a Bible story for the first time was beyond description.  The girls especially loved hearing the stories and I truly loved telling them.

Years later, it was my husband who affirmed that story-telling was a gift in my life and I needed to use it in a larger way to express God’s Truth. Devotions, Sunday school lessons and women’s events were my major outlet.  Faithfulness then was a key building block for ministry in subsequent years.

A dear friend named Sandra Bass became state women’s director for North Carolina during our years of ministry there.  Sandra, an ordained minister, had served as a missionary to Latin America when there weren’t many single women in such a role. Her sermons were always full of Latin fire and a challenge that drew everyone to the altar.  I watched and learned.

 Sandra brought me onto her executive team and soon began cultivating the ministry gifts she saw in her younger protégé.  She absolutely loved pushing other people forward.

“Sheri, that was a powerful devotion. I want you to share it at our next leadership event.” 
“Here’s a great new book.  Develop a workshop for our team.” 
“I can’t make this retreat but I told them to call you, Sheri.  Say Yes!  You can do it.”

Many books on leadership urge us to always look forward; focusing on our vision and future.  While I understand that concept, I’m so thankful Sandra looked back and saw someone longing to learn from her example.  She took the time needed and became a true mentor in my life. 

I’m not sure what restaurant we were in when Sandra said, “Sheri, you are a great preacher!”  I remember being shocked she used the word preacher and I responded, “I’m a teacher; not a preacher.”  She and my husband both began laughing at me.  “Honey, accept it,” he said.  “You’re a preacher.”  That’s when the idea of being licensed for ministry first came up.

The only ordained women I knew (besides my friend) were a bit “other worldly” or their sermons sounded like they could easily be given by a man.  I didn’t want to be lumped into either category.  But slowly, gently God began opening my heart.

The Holy Spirit showed me how His call had been on my life from my teen years.  I had developed a deep love for His word and for sharing its truth.  Scripture became the stabilizing factor for me.  My life may not have made sense sometimes but His Words to me were always steady.  Growing up in a pastor’s home was, for me, just like living in a fishbowl.  My personal relationship with Christ gave me hope for better days ahead.

My husband continued urging me to pursue the licensing process.  He also created opportunities for me to preach.  The next leap came when we moved into evangelistic work.  It was determined that every time we spoke for a church with Sunday night services, he would preach the morning and I would preach the evening.   It was a big stretch but I jumped in with both feet.

When I finally became a licensed minister, our entire family celebrated! However, I continued resisting the idea of ordination until God allowed me to be in a spot that made it clear - I was missing His plan.

After preaching the Mother’s Day sermon for a church in another city, one of the members approached me.  He was a state senator and also served as director of chapel services for the NC Senate.  “I understand you and your husband are both ministers,” he said. “Would you be interested in bringing devotions for our chapel?  Chapel speakers also pray over the opening of the session.” 

Of Course!  We would be honored.  I expressed our appreciation for such an invitation and got to Frank with the exciting news as quickly as possible. 

Our assigned days finally arrived.  We had determined I would speak the first day so I stepped to the podium wearing my best blue suit, a lovely white blouse and navy heels.  My message was sincere and I made sure to stay within my allotted time.  Several of the senators stopped  to greet me; thanking me for the word of encouragement.  

The assistant of our host stepped up beside me and whispered, “What year were you ordained?  I need that for our records.”  I responded in my customary way.  “Oh, heavens!  I’m not ordained.  I just enjoy preaching and teaching the Word.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said.  “Only ordained ministers are allowed to open the Senate in prayer.  Would your husband be willing to do it both days?”  I remember mumbling that he would and watching as she stepped over to Frank.

That door slamming closed was a pivotal moment for me.  I bowed my head and promised God I would no longer make excuses.  I would work with my whole heart to prepare for whatever doors He might open in the future.  Becoming ordained was the first step in fulfilling the promise I made that day.

Ordination was not an easy process; there were even some obstacles to overcome.  But obedience and perseverance always bring great reward.  I am incredibly grateful to be part of an organization that recognizes and affirms God’s call on women. 

I celebrate this moment with you, Dear Candidate!  I pray God’s richest blessings. 

  •       May we all look back to see others who need our encouragement.   
  •        May we be that voice of affirmation.
  •        May we each preach the word in the way God has uniquely gifted us.
  •        May we step up to every challenge presented knowing He is able through us.
  •        May we look to the future with joy and excitement.

God Bless You! 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Spotless Record

Never before and hopefully, never again!

I've been driving a motor vehicle legally since the day I turned 15.  (Yes, that means I've been behind the wheel for over 45 years.)  Some of you noticed I said "legally" and sensed a red flag.  Truth is, I actually started driving on country roads when I was only 13.  I was tall and Mom saw no harm in it.  That's all I have to say about that.

In all those 45+ years of handling an automobile, I've managed to maintain a SPOTLESS driving record.  I've never been the driver in a single accident.  I've never been given a single speeding ticket.  (Although, I was "motioned" over once.  I had slowed to a crawl of 20 MPH going through a little mountain town.  The officer informed me the speed limit was 15 MPH!  Reckless driver that I was, she let me go with a warning.)

I've never been ticketed for running a red light or parking in the wrong spot.  I rarely have to use my horn because I'm a defensive driver; always watching out for the other guy.  My one son will claim I drive faster than I should and that is sometimes true.  But I'm always cautious.

Last Tuesday, however, my spotless record was ruined in a single moment.   There was this dump truck that ran into the side of my little red convertible and the outcome was NOT pleasant.  Wait for it . . .  I was charged with the accident.

My spotless driving record was obliterated and worse yet, had no bearing in the ruling against me.  Yes, I'm still more than just a little bit frustrated with all that happened.  Although, I think I'm safely past the potential for "Bitterness" stage.

Here's what happened -

I had gone to grab lunch for Kristin and myself as it was a spectacularly full day.  While coming out of the driveway of the chicken establishment, I caught the eye of the young man driving the dump truck.  I requested permission to move in front of him until the light should change.  He motioned for me to come out, which I did.

While waiting for the light to change, I contemplated giving my horn a little tap to request that the other truck in front of me move forward enough so I could squeeze in completely.  However, we've already established my reticence to use my horn as horns can be unpleasant.

We waited a rather long time for the light to change.  When it did, I was watching and started moving.  But it appears Bryan, the driver of the dump truck, was distracted by his phone and completely forgot I was in front of him.  The massive truck caught the front left side of my little car and began pushing me forward.

You better believe I laid on my horn then and GOOD!

The dump truck stopped almost immediately but it was too late for my sweet red Solara.   Some of you will already know, Solaras have been out of production for over 11 years.  It wasn't new by any means, but the car Bryan hit was one I very much enjoy driving.

It would now be my advice to you that in any match up between a sports car and a dump truck, you should put your money on the dump truck - Every Time!

Bryan jumped down from his truck asking if I was okay.  He talked rapidly.  Apologized profusely. Explained he had been on the phone with his wife.  They were working through a difficulty.  He just didn't see me.  Was I sure I was I okay?

I was okay and agreed with him that everyone's safety was the most important thing.  In my head, I could hear Frank warning our girls, "If you're ever in an accident, be quiet until the police arrive."  So, knowing I was innocent in this crash, I followed his directive and said little more.

"So, why did the officer give YOU the ticket?" you may be wondering.

Well, it seems Bryan's massive dump truck was equipped with a dash cam.  His camera showed me stopping in the driveway of the chicken establishment.  His camera showed no other traffic coming toward us.  His camera showed me cautiously moving in front of him.  His camera showed my little car being pushed sideways down the road.

Unfortunately, his camera DID NOT show him motioning earlier to the second driver (that would be me) that it was okay to move in front of him.

So, the officer said I was at fault and promptly wrote a ticket for $164.00 with my name and address at the top!  I assured the officer (as well as Frank who had arrived by then) that Bryan had clearly signaled for me to move in front of him.  Bryan did NOT mention to the officer that he had been on his phone.

The officer was courteous but explained (twice) that while I could take the matter, along with my previously spotless driving record to court, Bryan's dash camera would most likely cause the judge to rule against me.  Then I would be responsible for the ticket, my insurance deductible AND court fees.  Sigh.

So that is how I came to be in car line today with an unidentified rental car.  (The principal hesitated letting my grandchildren get in the car until she saw me waving madly.)

While reading back over the post I've written for you, I was struck by how many times I felt compelled to share about my spotless driving history as well as proclaim my innocence.  A phrase from Shakespeare's play Hamlet comes to mind, "The lady doth protest too much, methink."  

And perhaps it applies to my situation.

Perhaps I had allowed a bit of pride to wiggle its way into my heart over that spotless record.  Perhaps I thought my record could protect me.  Perhaps I thought, " would never happen to me!"

Before you ask, the answers are YES:

  • Yes,  I have already stopped to examine my heart and ask for forgiveness over this matter.  
  • Yes, each time I get frustrated about it, I pray for Bryan and his wife. (This is just something Frank and I try to do - I'm still Practicing.)   
  • Yes, some day this will be a hysterical story I use at a conference or in a sermon.  Probably many times. 
  • Yes, I'm rehearsing for myself there can only be one truly Spotless Record.  That's the record of our sins with the precious blood of Jesus applied.
With the Easter season now upon us, perhaps this is a good reminder for us all.  Is your record Spotless?  I certainly hope so.  Blessings!

So there you have it.  The story of my first and hopefully my ONLY car accident.  How about you?  Any other spotless driving records out there?  Formerly spotless?  Anyone else take on a dump truck and lose?  We'd love to read your story in the comment section below.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Day ONE!

Today is the first day of the REST of your life!

We've all heard this statement many times.  But the simplicity of this truth has hit me in a fresh way.

Frank and I had the privilege of attending a memorial service yesterday afternoon.  The service took place in Pennsylvania so we were part of the hundreds watching via live-stream.  The service was a 2 1/2 hour celebration of life.  The life of David Andrew Kyllonen.

"Sheri, did you watch the entire service?"

We did!

"Was he a family member?"


"Was he your former co-worker?  Pastor?  Professor?"

Well, the answer to that would be Yes and No.

You see, Dave Kyllonen was a mentor to us.  He and his precious wife Judy (married 60 years) had three daughters.  Just like us.  Dave and Judy served as pastors, evangelists and people with a love for missions.  Just like us.  They were passionate about family and faith and helping family embrace their faith.  Just like us.

So when we met them in 1995, we were immediately drawn to them.  Their daughters were serving God even though their dad had been involved in ministry all their lives.  We wanted to know how they did it!

The Kyllonens quickly became more than acquaintances.  They welcomed us into their home (which was a class A motor home at the time) and into their hearts.  They came to our little pioneer work on the coast of NC and ministered to our congregation of 100 as though it was 1000.

Did I mention that Dave had ministered to thousands?  He was a founding member of The Couriers, an internationally known men's singing group.  As bass singer for The Couriers, Dave had experienced every kind of ministry venue.  Huge crowds at conventions and churches were commonplace.  Scores of albums recorded; magazine articles; a book or two.  They even sang regularly on syndicated television,  He had traveled to all fifty states, every province of Canada and several foreign countries when we first met.

But he and his family came alive each evening as they brought hope and a challenge to our fledgling church plant.  We were completely taken in by such integrity!

During that first evangelistic outreach in our community, we all realized they had also come to drop a new vision into the hearts of the Hawley family.  Dave and Judy, along with their three daughters and their families generously affirmed our work and took time to become friends to each of our daughters.

They were the first to say to us, "Of COURSE, you could do what we're doing!  You absolutely could travel to churches and sing and encourage people to fight for wholeness in their families. Don't waste time looking at what you don't have in your hand, look at the resources you DO have.  Make today Day One of your next season!"

They were the ones who inspired us to finally "hit the road" in the summer of 1999.  What followed was a huge leap of faith and a six year season of our lives.  It wasn't an easy path but it was one we look back on with joy.  We will forever be glad that we dared to dream, took that leap of faith and acted on our dream.

During our first encounter, Dave preached a message on following your dreams.  We wrote down every point and rehearsed it sitting around our own dinner table with our girls.  Together we pondered the truth of his message and dared to begin dreaming for our own family.

I want to share the key points, which I still have memorized, with you:

D.  Dreams give us DIRECTION.  Don't keep plodding along with one day exactly like the other.  Dare to dream and see where those God-sized dreams will lead you.

R.  Dreams require RISK.  It's a proven fact, you will have to risk something in order to follow your dreams; perhaps your nice safe way of life.  But remember, the outcome will be worth the risk.

E.  Dreams fulfilled will take EFFORT.  Everyone hits a wall when pursuing their dream.  It takes tenacity and faith to get up, get over the wall and keep going.  Make the effort!

A.  Dreams will test your ATTITUDE.  Can you find something to be grateful for in the middle of the struggle?  Check your attitude.  Stay optimistic.  Believe that God can and He will.

M.  Dreams will MOTIVATE the dreamer.  Once you've articulated what you hope to make happen, keep that vision clear.  Let it motivate you; drive you during the darker turns in your journey.

S. Dreams all have SEASONS.  Most dreamers in scripture and in history have had to wait decades to see their dreams fulfilled.  But rest assured, when the season is right, your dream WILL be fulfilled.

Isn't that powerful?

Isn't it powerful that even after he has gone on to meet the Savior he served, Dave is still "preaching" hope and encouragement through today's post.  I think he'd be happy to know that.

So I bring the challenge to you, dear reader.  What dream of your heart needs to be re-visited?  Polish it off.  Consider again the people that will be impacted by your risk.  Listen to the motivation stirring in your soul, perhaps THIS is the season for fulfillment.

Make today DAY ONE in moving toward seeing that dream come about!

How about you?  Have you stepped forward in a dream?  Tell us about it. Is there a mentor that has been important in your life?  Leave a tribute here in the comment section.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ode to Routine

Routine may seem an odd thing to laud but that's my exact intent for today's post.  Let me explain.....

When our girls were little, I worked very hard as a stay-at-home-mom.  I also kept up with Frank's schedule of church events, led our choir and produced musicals for the Christian school the girls attended.  But my number one job was that of Mommie!

When Meagan was first born, we only had one vehicle.  Even though Frank's office was a short 10 minute drive away, this still meant I spent many days at home with three little girls.  It was not unusual for me to be home with them for two or three days in a row.

Let me just step away from the main theme for a moment and cheer for ALL stay-at-home-parents!  Those days will be forever etched in my memory.  Some days were wonderful and some days were the pits.  Can't lie. But that season passed far more quickly than I could ever have imagined.

A dear friend shared this wonderful line with me, "Sheri, the days drag and the years fly.  Enjoy them while you can."  True Words!

As I was thinking back on that time this morning, I thought of the daily routine I established for us.  With so little that changed from morning to night (little children seem to be in a constant state of need) I soon realized I needed something to signal the start and end of my "working" hours.  That signal would help me transition and offer some sanity to my crazy days.

For me the signal was . . . Tennis Shoes.

Yep, when I put on those tennis shoes each morning they became the signal to my internal self that my "work day" had begun.  I may or may not have time for a shower.  I may or may not get to eat breakfast.  I may or may not speak to another adult during those first hours.  But the tennis shoes meant I was in "Go Mode" and there would be no slowing down until nap time.

There also came a definitive moment each evening after dinner when I would ceremoniously remove the tennis shoes.  I would joyfully replace them with my well-worn bedroom slippers.  Those shoes also sent an important signal to my desperately tired internal self, "It's okay to take a deep cleansing breath now.  Every single girl made it safely through the day.  Good Job, Mommmie! Time to wind down."

Simplistic, perhaps.  But it was a routine that served me well for over 20 years of being a full-time Mom.  There were a couple of other routine staples for me during those early days.  Sesame Street was the only tv time each morning.  Then, I would listen to the radio until two teaching shows came on each Monday through Friday.  I listened faithfully to Chuck Swindoll and then to Focus on the Family.  Both radio shows made me feel less isolated and kept me learning; vitally important.

I also took the girls for a walk everyday that we could manage with the cold mountain weather.  This meant I loaded all three little blondes into a stroller built for one child.  Kristin would sit in the actual seat and hold baby Meagan, who I strapped in.  Then Joy would stand on the frame behind them holding onto the handles going up beside her.

It was no easy task pushing those girls uphill, over two more city blocks, past the local pharmacy,  back downhill toward our home.  But the routine of those daily walks became important.  It meant we were getting fresh air, looking at something besides our tiny house and often praying for people or pets we encountered along the way.

I wish I had a specific story to share from one of those walks, but I can't remember even one.  The point was that we made the trek so often, not that we rehearsed any of the single moments.  And I guess that's the entire point about routines.

Whatever your routines may look like, don't forget to celebrate them.  They have purpose.  They serve as anchors, keeping the rest of life stable.

My life has been totally devoid of any semblance of routine for several weeks now.  Getting ready for Israel; traveling 7000 miles from home; experiencing a new culture; new climate; new people; new food; coming home and trying to reacclimate.   Travel is definitely NOT for the faint of heart.  I guess that's what triggered my Ode to Routine today.  There are some things we don't miss until they're no longer available in our lives.  Those are my rambling thoughts for this routine Monday . . . .

I'd love to hear about the routines in your life.  Especially routines you recognize as being beneficial.
Please tell us about them in the comment section below.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Shalom! We're Home!

Israel Was Resplendent!

It seems impossible that we've already gone and returned home - but time slows for no one.  Our ten days were full to the absolute brim with walking and sight-seeing and laughter and tears.  Such a RICH experience on so many levels.

We landed back in Miami around 8:30 Friday morning.  We made it home to Winter Haven around 3PM.  I'm working diligently to get myself on local time. Keep moving even though all you want to do is go to bed. One short nap Saturday. Lots of water consumption. Light meals.  Keep Moving!  Finally fall into bed around 9.  Even though we've been home three days, I'm risking heavy eyelids to sit still and write this post.

I'll probably write about experiences over the next couple of weeks but I wanted to quickly share a few of my favorites today.

  • Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee - Last time we visited, the weather was too bad and our boat ride was cancelled.  This time, we went early in the morning and it was phenomenal.  Our captain just happens to be a Messianic Jew.  (Meaning he has accepted Christ as Savior.)  We glided across the sea while Daniel led us in worship songs.  Frank read the passage about Peter walking on the water - that very water.  I looked over at the mountainous terrain and realized Jesus would have seen those same hills.  My tears fell freely!
  • Prayer Time in Gethsemane - Our tour guide was extremely thoughtful about setting up special moments.  He made an appointment for our group to have the prayer garden all to ourselves for 50 minutes.  They literally locked us in so we wouldn't be disturbed.  We started out together as Frank read the passage from Luke; then we dispersed, each finding a quiet place to pray among the ancient olive trees.  It was a holy time.
  • Dinner with Amanda - We have a friend named Amanda who works in Jerusalem.  She was just a teen-ager when we first became acquainted with her family during our evangelist days.  Since she lives 7,000 miles away now, we definitely needed to connect with her.  We offered to bring things from the States for her but the only items she requested were peppermint gum and organic peanut butter. :-)  It was a delight to introduce her to our team, share stories and even close the evening with prayer.  When you open your arms to offer a hug, the world becomes a brighter place.
  • Broken-down Bus - The power steering went out on our tour bus and it ended up being one of my favorite moments.  Of course, there's more to it than that.  I wanted a group shot before we left Tiberius so I asked our guide if we could turn into an overlook.  It "just happened" there was one at the next light.  As we made the u-turn, our steering went out.  But fortunately, we were all set with a fabulous view of the sea and a blue, cloudless sky.  Our jackets made the cool breeze bearable.  So while our tour guide and driver scrambled to make new arrangements, we held an impromptu Sunday service overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  We sang and Frank shared a devotion.  We prayed together and spent some time journaling.  Only later did we realize our guide and driver were relieved by our response to the trouble.  God never wastes anything.
I guess I'll let those do it for now.  My eyelids a drooping and that's dangerous.  Time to get up and start moving again.  I trust your week will hold surprise blessings hiding among the troubles! 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Israel, Here We Come!

We're going to Israel on Wednesday!!  Want to come?!

Just typing those words feels a bit surreal.  It's rather like, "We're going to the mall on Wednesday.  Want to join us?"  Or maybe, "We're going to eat at a new restaurant Wednesday.  Can you come, too?"

My inside self is anxious and excited all at the same time.  Anxious because this will be the first time in many years we've led a group of people on an overseas trip.  I hear someone say, "But Sheri, you guys travel overseas all the time."

Yes, we travel with teams from our church often.  But those trips are organized and led by our amazing missions directors, the Buccafurnis.  All I have to do then is be the best team member of all time.

Being in charge, knowing everyone is counting on you to know what you're doing when sometimes you know you don't know exactly WHAT you're doing, is most definitely different!

The first leg of our journey begins Wednesday morning at 4:45 in the A.M.  We drive from Winter Haven to Miami International and must arrive 2 hours before our flight which departs at 12:45.  Once we have all the luggage through security and get everyone safely to the gate on time, I plan to take a Deep Cleansing Breath!

Thankfully, our group is rather small with only 10 travelers.  That will make it nice for the overall tour. The Holy sites in Israel are always crowded and the lines can get very long.  10 people should be able to make it into and out of those locations so much more quickly.

10 Pilgrims.  10 Days.  10 Different Views.  10 Open Hearts.

All the preparations have kept me rather busy.  That's why I'm just now posting in the middle of February.  And I'm not sure I'll be able to post while away.  Although, I'll certainly give it the ol' college try!

Our first trip to the Holy Land was three years ago this April.  We had never visited Israel before and my cup was full to overflowing!  It was a life-long dream for me.  Our church sent us as a gift, marking our tenth year as their pastors.  (Just realized that's a lot of 10's in this post. LOL)

It was a gift topped only by the secrecy and joy that surrounded the time they presented us with a vehicle!  Yes, as a matter of fact we DO pastor the most amazing congregation anywhere.

Frank and I traveled alone that time.  We met up with three other intrepid souls in Tel Aviv.  A couple from Canada and a lady from South Africa.  We five made up the first tour group zipping in and out of all sorts of sites with our guide, Alex.  After three days, Alex took us to Jerusalem where we were blended into another group of eleven bringing our total to sixteen.  Elijah took us on from there.

The final day of that trip, we were picked up at our hotel by a tour guide, Benjamin, who spent the entire day with just Frank and I.  We visited numerous off-the-beaten-path sorts of sites.  Enjoyed a relaxing lunch at his favorite restaurant.  Drove to the top of a hill overlooking the Valley of Elah. (David and Goliath.)  Enjoyed the sunshine and breezes as Frank read aloud the story of their famous encounter.  Stood for some time imagining that scene.

Finally, Frank turned to the young man and said, "This was the perfect finish.  I'm ready to go home now."

As Benjamin drove us the remaining hour and a half to Ben Gurion Airport, he told us of the recent loss of his much loved father.  I sat quietly praying in the back seat as Frank worked his people skills magic and conversed with Benjamin.  He was roughly the same age as our sons.

When we pulled in to the airport, Benjamin got out of the car and asked Frank if he would mind giving him a hug.  Frank gladly obliged and Benjamin held on for a long time, weeping in the comforting arms of a father sent from far away to remind the young man he was still loved.

I'm not sure who we are going to Israel to encounter this time.  But we're eagerly watching for them.  Will you pray for us as we go?  Safety and open eyes!

Next time we go, you should plan to come with us.  Shalom!

(How about you?  Have you visited the Holy Land?  What was your experience like?  We'd love to read about it in the comment section.)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Seldom As It Seems

Can you believe we're wrapping up the first month of 2019?!

I've been looking forward to this year with great anticipation for several reasons.  So, today I'm in shock that an entire month has passed already.

In looking over my calendar once again and shaking my head in disbelief, I was suddenly struck with this truth:  Life is SELDOM as it Seems.  And trust me, that's true for every human being.

For example, my calendar preference.  I still prefer a hard copy format with a single square for each day.   I know.  I know!  On-line linking and sinking is THE way to go.  My little black calendar that travels with me everywhere is an antiquated relic.  But it's what works best for me.

I have stepped into the 21st century with at least one foot.  I've exchanged my rolodex for a directory IN my phone.  I've learned to text.  I appreciate the many methods of connectedness afforded by my I-Phone. I can even Facetime my grandchildren.  But still I cling to the one old-fashioned office element I most love . . . my slimline, At-A-Glance calendar. 

If we were sitting in an airport and you happened to notice my MacBook Air computer, you might conclude I'm very tech-savvy.  However, those who really know me understand nothing could be farther from the truth.

This computer was a gift.  I work across the hall from a patient son-in-law who set it up for me and then slowly explained each pretty icon and it's function.  I live with a patient husband who can help me find my way back to the page of lovely icons when I lose my way while working at home. 

It seems like I should be able to accomplish much more with this state of the art piece of equipment than I actually can.  Life is Seldom as it Seems.

Another example can be found in pictures.  I have many friends whose pictures make them appear to be flawlessly beautiful, living magical lives and working completely care-free jobs.  But for those of us who know them well, we also see the price of a smile offered in spite of serious pain and disappointment.

I've had a fascination with beautiful front doors ever since I was a child.  Mom told me (as an adult) how I would comment routinely on the many lovely doors I would see as she and I drove around my hometown of Pensacola, FL.  She must have become concerned that my vivd imagination was creating an unrealistic world all associated with magnificent front doors. 

So one day she tried to bring correction.  We were driving along downtown when I said excitedly, "Look, Mama! That door is absolutely Beautiful!" 

Her response was sharp; intense even, "Sheri, there's sorrow behind those doors!" 

It was such an odd, out of place statement that I laughed out loud.  "What in the world do you mean, Mom?" 

Her timing was a little off and her declaration a bit extreme but she had her reasons.  Mom wanted me to understand the simple truth I'm sharing with you today:  Life is Seldom as it Seems. . . for anyone! 
Maybe I'm writing to someone today who has been wondering why everyone else is living a life of near perfection while your own life seems such a mess.  You scroll through social media, listen to friends talking or read blog after blog and think, "When will my situation get better?"

While I can't answer that question, I can assure you Life is Seldom as it Seems for any of those "Perfect Life People," either.  Take time to get to know them better.  Listen as they talk, really listen.  Slow down long enough to look beneath the surface.  I'm pretty sure you'll discover more to the story than you knew.

And when we know one another better, it makes us kinder toward one another.  When we stop complaining about our own situation long enough to listen to someone else's story, we suddenly find compassion we didn't know we had.

I once read an illustration about perspective and complaining.  It went like this:

"After patiently listening to them all, the Wise Man helped everyone pack their personal troubles into large see-through bags.  Then each person in the group brought their bag to the circle in the center of the room.  Some bags were small and were easily delivered to the circle.  Other people had to have assistance in dragging their massive bag of troubles to the center of the room.  When they had all been collected, the Wise Man gave them these instructions, 'Walk slowly around the circle.  Take a good look at each bag and the troubles contained in it.  Once you've carefully looked at each bag, you are to choose the one you wish to take as yours.'  The people moved hesitantly toward the circle following the instructions of the Wise Man.  Quietly and without fanfare, each one reached for their own, original bag.  After looking at what the others were coping with, their own bag of troubles seemed like much less of a problem than they had before."

Dear Friend, Life is Seldom as it Seems.  Perhaps that little mantra will be a help for you this year. 

Blessings!  And please stay warm!!

What about you?  Have you ever been surprised to discover the REAL story behind a perfect life?  Do you have a favorite saying that helps you with perspective?  We'd love to hear about it. . .