Thursday, April 1, 2021

Our Angel Driver

A lovely blanketing snow began falling that afternoon just like the others we had been enjoying that winter. Nothing unusual about a heavy snow storm in early February. As long as my husband and I had homemade soup, firewood and each other, it would make for a peaceful couple of days. Unfortunately, there was nothing peaceful about the contractions I started experiencing. My due date wasn’t for another month but earlier that week, the doctor had said I was probably going to deliver early. This was the first baby for us and we really had no idea what to expect. Frank and I kept swinging back and forth between fascination and fear – learning all we could about pregnancy and childbirth. Whenever my time came, it would be just the two of us going to the hospital. Our families lived hundreds of miles away from the picturesque mountain town we now called home. We had relocated to North Carolina from Florida just over a year earlier. It was there that a small church tucked away in the valley needed a pastor and we were young pastors needing a church that would let us learn. That’s how we found ourselves living in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. Just as Catherine Marshall described in her book Christy, mountain people don’t always take to strangers too quickly. Oh, they welcomed and loved us in their own way but most of our congregation had large families and friendships that had developed over decades. Frank and I often felt lonely and isolated. When we discovered we were having a baby, the sadness lifted and we began preparing to start our family with great joy. We had chosen a wonderful obstetric group in Asheville. The thirty-mile trip into town each month had been a treat for us. After doctor visits, we ate dinner at a favorite fast food place in the local mall. People-watching was a favorite pastime for us. As newlyweds on a tight budget, we had quickly learned entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive. Dr. Wilson, our favorite of the obstetric team, happened to be on call that Thursday evening. When the contractions stayed at five minutes apart for an hour, Frank called to see what we should do. I could see the concern in his eyes as he reported, “Dr. Wilson wants us to come to the hospital now. She’s pretty sure you’re in active labor.” My young husband didn’t have to voice his fears. I already knew. He was anxious about our car which was older and not the most reliable. The snow, now falling as steadily as my contractions, was no joking matter. The ice under the snow could wreak havoc with our tires. We had no chains. None of the regular preparations for this trip were in place because we thought we still had a month to go. First babies are notorious for late arrivals, right? That obviously would not be our story. We jumped into action. The sun was setting and the snow was becoming more treacherous with every passing moment. Frank made quick calls to our families and board members while I packed a bag for us and for the baby. I had long ago chosen the special outfit for bringing our precious bundle home: a warm, one-piece jumper in pale green with yellow trim. Ultrasounds weren’t conclusive in 1983 so we had no idea if we were having a boy or a girl. I paused for one brief moment placing the soft fabric against my face as I breathed in the smell of baby detergent I’d used to launder the piece. “God, we need your help. Please, Lord keep all three of us safe.” In less than thirty minutes, we were set to go. Frank warmed the car, loaded the bags, then helped me ease my cumbersome, aching body in to the front seat. The cold air was like a slap but the snow fell all around us without sound. No one else was stirring on such a dangerous night. Frank moved our old sedan slowly but steadily toward the highway. The windshield wipers slapped a perfect rhythm and the headlights did their best to show a path through the heavy snowflakes. Another contraction hit and I tried to hide the fact that I was having to pant through the pain. Frank glanced over at me and I flashed an unconvincing smile his way, “I’m fine, Sweetheart. You focus on the road and I’ll focus on the contractions.” His hands tightened on the steering wheel. We made it to the highway but snow was already drifting badly. The plows wouldn’t be coming out until morning. There wasn’t another vehicle on any of the four lanes. We inched along in silence, all the while calling out to heaven from the depths of our hearts. And that’s when it happened. Out of nowhere, an eighteen-wheeler came from behind us. The driver carefully passed us then moved in the center of the eastbound lanes. Frank recognized the truck as our answer to prayer—our own personal plow. He quickly directed our car up and over the small snowbank created by the truck’s tires and into the newly created trough. Although the driver could have gone much faster and still been safe, he maintained a slow steady pace that allowed us to follow right behind him. When we realized he must be going all the way to Asheville, we began referring to him as the Angel Driver. We were the only two vehicles we saw the entire thirty-mile trip. We made it safely to the exit for the hospital and Frank flashed his headlights at the driver, a universal sign of thanks. Slowly we made our way the last few miles to the hospital where the ER team whisked me upstairs to a birthing room. Within hours, our precious baby girl Kristin Nicole was born. With blond curls and big blue eyes, she studied our faces just as we studied hers. Complications during the delivery confirmed we had made the right choice in coming straight to the hospital but what a trip it had been. Later that next morning while looking out the window, I thanked God again for sending the Angel Driver. Psalm 91:11 came to me, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” The truth of that scripture became literal for us. I wished I could let the driver know what a miracle his help had been. Somehow, I sensed he did know. When St. Peter put out a call for an angel who would help two young parents make it safely to the hospital, our angel put on a trucker’s cap and volunteered. And I think that as he drove on into the snowy night, he wore a knowing smile under that cap.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Problems and Promises

The PROBLEMS have been many.  But as with most problems, mine were only temporary.  I am literally "over the moon" excited to be back online with Embrace the Grace!

Thank you for not forgetting that this site exists.  It has literally been weeks of frustration trying to figure out what was going on with the different formatting.  Suffice to say, Kristin's husband Cody eventually found the solution and my gratitude could not be deeper!

While we were on radio silence, there were several developments.  

  • Joy passed all her state board exams to become a licensed cosmetologist!!  (So, her BA in ministry and her minor in business will combine to make her the best stylist of all time.)  
  • I found a loveseat at a consignment store that was exactly what I had in mind for our living room.
  • We sold my adorable little convertible.  (It just so "happened" that Stella was also be the grandmother's name of the lady who bought her. Can't make it up.)
  • We've been a one car family for weeks while I've searched for a replacement.
And perhaps the biggest personal change was this:

Yep, I took the plunge and went back to a short haircut.  I'm still getting used to the styling part.  And occasionally, I startle myself when I first glance in a mirror.  But Joy did a great job talking me through the decision.  Did I mention how much her ministry degree will be utilized in her salon work?

As I mentioned earlier, Frank and I are still on the hunt for the ideal used car to meet my needs while also accommodating some of my biggest desires. So, I need to wrap up today and be ready to leave when he gets home.

Because you've waited so very long and have been so incredibly patient, I thought I'd include a few extra pictures to make you smile today.

Noah and Madi spent an afternoon with us recently while Meagan was out of town.  Dad gave permission for lunch at McDonald's and every kid needs an frozen drink now and again, don't you think?  This is the two of them finishing their drinks while pondering the deeper things of life - like how to avoid a brain freeze.

John and Spencer went on a camping trip to celebrate his 10th birthday.  (Our first double digit grandchild!)  So Noni and Papa made dinner for Joy and the three youngest.  Abby, Zach and Ava also needed some DQ so off we went in search of chocolate dipped in chocolate cones.  Obviously, I was in the back with plenty of napkins.

This picture is just for the purpose of providing the McGhee family with a picture, too.  This was taken in my office before the great haircut of 2021.  Parker's face just makes me smile all the time!

Frank and I actually took time for a little date last week.  For our anniversary this year, we bought an annual pass for Bok Tower Gardens.  It's the highest spot above sea level in Florida. A beautiful pink marble tower stands as the centerpiece amid acres of native flowering plants and hidden parks which delight children and adults as well.

Bok Tower Gardens was one of our first dates as a couple.  We strolled the walkways; admired the flora and fauna; sat at the overlooks and sneaked a kiss here and there.  How fun to return after 41 years of marriage.  The tower itself also houses one of the greatest carillons in the world.  Concerts are given daily at 1 and 3pm.  You should check it out if you ever come to the area. 

This picture is taken where we sat to take in the concert.

Frank knows that when taking a photo of his over fifty wife, the higher the camera the better the picture.  Typically.  Here he is trying to get the best possible angle...

We're nothing if not dramatic!

So many more wonderful things to share but I'll close for now. I've chosen a few pictures taken of flowers growing in our yard.  The first is an orchid that has only bloomed a couple times in the many years I've owned it.  The last big blooming took place for Kristin's 30th birthday.  She was waiting to meet her husband and we took it as a promise since orchids are her favorite flower.

This plant is now a huge bush that blooms every spring.  A church member, who is now gardening in Heaven, gave me a small cutting almost twelve years ago.  It was a favorite flower for his own mother.  He explained that it's referred to as an I Love You Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bush.  The flowers first bloom purple, then turn lavender and finally turn white before dying.  Such a beautiful promise of love to me...

The final photo is one Frank and I snapped during one of our many car shopping expeditions.  We had driven all the way to Orlando after work.  It meant battling the horrible 5PM traffic during rain only to be disappointed by the vehicle we found.  When we stopped for a bite to eat as we left the dealership, this is what we saw...

Did you find the full rainbow?  Yet another reminder that God's promises can be trusted.  An orchid to remind a young lady that love would blossom in due season.  A bush reminding us that love is for always: yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Finally, a rainbow that spoke to two discouraged people searching for a needed item, I see you and I'm aware of your needs.

Hopefully, all these pictures have given you a smile.  

Hopefully, the main message has encouraged your heart.  Problems may be many but they are only temporary.  Promises are what last forever and can be trusted completely.  

Thank you So Much for being a reader of Embrace the Grace!  Blessings!

How about you? Have you encountered problems that were temporary and promises that proved to be forever?  We'd love to read about your experience in the comment section.

Saturday, January 30, 2021


I've still been having difficulty with formating my paragraphs on this new set up.

Consequently, this is simply a test. (Not a test of the American Broadcast System, as we so often hear.) Rather a test to see if my blog site allows for the paragraph changes to I'm so attached. If they don't have breaks, I will be taking this down post haste!

Many things to share so please stay tuned.

I'll be back up and running as soon as possible.

One thing I've discovered as a blogger, I enjoy communicating with those of you who stop by. 

Consequently, the challenges must be overcome and a way must be found. Otherwise, the messages I want to share with you will be for me like the messages of the Old Testament prophet, like fire shut up in my bones. :-)

Here we go..... Changed my mind about deleating this. But I do have help coming to my aide.

Thanks for checking back.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Single Word

(The format has changed - AGAIN! This time, I can't seem to figure out how to do paragraph breaks. So sorry! That's why I kept it short. Thanks for extending grace - AGAIN! Blessings!) I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write words of encouragement on this platform. The fact that you stop by to check in from time to time is something I consider a true honor. So with that in mind, I want to offer a single word for your consideration today. It's this promise I came across a couple of weeks ago. "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who trust in Him." Nahum 1:7 Good one, don't you think? While looking a little deeper for the underlying meaning, I came across a couple of strong thoughts. 1. The writer inspired to pen this was named Nahum. His very name means "Comfort." 2. Another translation assures us that not only does our Father know us, He also cares for us. 3. Stronghold means "refuge" or "hiding place" for those days of trouble or serious difficulty. Aren't those great messages to ponder? I've gone back to this promise again and again during the past few days. While writing this post, I was reminded of a directive my daddy used to give when I was a little girl. "Sheri," he would sternly say. "I only intend to tell you ONE time. You need to obey right away on that single word." My dad was doing his best to train me and I now know he had my best interest in mind. But I'm always grateful that when my Heavenly Father gives a single word, it's usually one of tender comfort. He intends for me to go back and hear His word to me again and again. The Father gives a single word making it easier for us to cling to the message gleaning hope and courage. The circumstances in our world seem very unsteady, right now. But I know the One who spun everything into orbit is still watching over those who trust in Him. (That's you and I.) He is also tenderly stabilizing our hearts in the middle of the shaking. For this, I am grateful. Yes, I'll be rehearsing this promise more in the days to come. Although it was written a couple thousand years ago, it feels fresh and relavent to my grown up, little girl heart. I hope sharing it will encourage your heart, as well. Sometimes, all it takes is a single word. The right word can indeed carry us a long, long way. How about you? Is there a particular promise that's significant for you right now? Please flood the comment section with hope. Your promise may be just the word needed by another reader. Thank you, in advance!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Christmas Chaos

(Please note, for some reason I was unable to create proper paragraphs for this post. SIGH! Just keep learning, right?! To all my English teacher readers I want to say, thanks for your patience.) Does this picture speak to you more of Chritmas? Or of Chaos?
If you answered Christmas, I would bet that you too are part of a large family. These are the nine practically perfect grandchildren I talk about all the time. Oldest to youngest they are: Spencer, Abby, Noah, Madi, Zachariah, Ava, Parker, Grayson and Andrew. You'll notice the last three are boys and trust me, they are ALL boy! This next picture is a bit calmer. They're all sporting their Christmas PJs. When there were only three grands old enough to join us for making gingerbread houses, we made unwrapping Christmas pajamas part of the excitement. That little tradition rocked along nicely for several years. Now, it's become a major thing trying to find NINE pairs of matching PJs that don't requre the sale of a kidney to purchase.
I literally broke out in a sweat standing in the aisle of SAMS this year trying to select proper sizes for all six boys. (One of which requires a men's size Small now! :-( They do tend to grow, don't they?) One lady kept trying to elbow her way into the small space alotted for the single remaining box of flannel pajamas. I was undaunted. My boys needed pajamas and there was a limited number of the sizes they had to have. I behaved in a decidely unsouthern, unladylike manner. But on Christmas morning, my grandsons all had proper sizes that matched! Unfortuantely, SAMS did not offer feminine pajamas. Consequently, I had to make friends with a lady in India via internet in order to secure the coupon code I had been promised when I first went to the Carter's website. She probably couldn't have cared less about my need for tutu pajamas; still, she helped walk me through the proces of ordering three pairs of red and white girly pjs. The coupon code made them more econically feasible and caused me to do the happy dance! Perhaps I went a little overboard with the tutu theme this year. These are the dresses we bought for all three girls. (The boys were given matching jogging suits. Much better choice for them.) The girls wore their dresses Sunday morning. I had snagged camoflage backpacks for the big boys. They looked like little soldiers marching into class wearing their backpacks. My grin was massive.
This final picture was taken just before everyone arrived at our house on Christmas morning. If you've read Embrace the Grace very long you already know Christmas, for us, can be almost anyday other than December 25th. We have sons with family in the next county, North Carolina and even New York. In order to acommodate their traditions and travel, we've celebrated as early as December 15th and as late as January 9th. This year, we were together on December 26th. A new record, I think. Tomorrow, this guy and I will celebrate 41 years of marriage. I can hardly believe it's been that long. The happy news is this, we still like each other. Isn't that just the Best?!
Whether your Christmas was more of the quiet or chaotic variety, I hope it was filled with a few lovely memories. And more than anything, I hope you sensed the Presence of the Christ-child we were celebrating. He came for the purpose of bringing salvation to the whole world. Glory to God in the Highest! Thank you for honoring me with your time by stopping by to look at a picture or read a story. I have another post for the 31st. See you then.... How about you? Does your family wear matching pajamas or special Christmas clothing? When do you celebrate together?

Friday, November 27, 2020

Old Places; New Faces

Can you guess where this picture was taken?
How about this one?
Okay, one more guess...
I just heard someone in Minnesota yell, "Charleston, SC?!" You're Right! You win the unidentified prize for today. (Please be sure to leave your name in the comment section and we'll cheer your astute geographic ascertaining.) :-) Frank and I were to leave last Thursday for a visit to his mom in NC. We were then to go on to Ocean Isle to preach on Sunday. On the Wednesday before, we learned that a hurricane would be crossing our path so we had to make a quick adjustment to our plans. We obviously couldn't drive through the hurricane so we would need to stop overnight. Kristin and Cody got busy and found a hotel for us in SC. Imagine my delight when they told us it was in Charleston, SC. I've wanted to visit that city for many years. They topped off our joy by blessing us with the room. Kids are the Best! It did rain pretty badly just as we were arriving in Charleston. So we decided to check in and call it a night. Frank took on the role of "hunter/gatherer" in order to find a bit of dinner. He hit it out of the park when we brought back fish and chips from a delightful English pub he discovered a couple of blocks from our hotel. He took me by there the next day so I could take a peak at their unusual wallpaper.
Yes, those are dollar bills - literally thousands of real dollar bills stapled to every square inch of exposed drywall. Years ago, some tourist came up with the idea of signing their name to a dollar bill then stapling it to the wall. Soon others followed their lead. Eventually, thousands of bills were layered all around the restaurant. I know it's thousands because the owner told Frank they used part of the money to pay their servers during the shutdown earlier this year. He and the co-owner spent hours carefully removing staples from each bill in order to retreive it from the wall. They cleared only one section and were able to give their employees over $12,000!! That's a LOT of souvenir dollar bills. We took the next morning to play tourists ourselves. After checking out of our hotel, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at another historic spot. The decision was made to get the official tour of Charleston by way of a carriage ride. Tickets were purchased and we waited patiently on a bench in the sunshine for our assigned time. When they loaded us onto the carriage with the other patrons, Frank and I were sitting seperately. Now usually, I'm a pretty co-operative tourist. But did I mention I had wanted to visit Charleston for many years? And that I had long imagined us touring the city by horse and buggy? In none of my imagining did I see us sitting on seperate benches with me looking at the back of Frank's head. So, I boldly asked the attendant if we could wait for the next carriage. He obliged. And although it meant a delay, I was much happier snuggled next to my favorite travel buddy listening to the tour guide and whispering to each other about the lovely sights. Sometimes, it's better to speak up.
Next stop - North Carolina. . . by car, not carriage. Frank did get an entire day with Mom. They enjoyed lunch at her favorite barbeque spot. They ran a few errands, helping Mom stock up. They rode around town, just the two of them revisiting all the homes they had lived in together. They laughed together and swiped at a few tears. What a team they've been all these years. We're so thankful for Frank's two younger brothers and their families who do such a great job of taking care of Mom. We all say she's a 16 year old girl trapped in an 86 year old body! She still loves life and is totally independent. We're proud of her for staying young in her thinking.
We preached on Sunday and (as usual) met new friends. Barry and Chris moved to Ocean Isle two years ago. They invited us to join them for a lovely pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner at their home. Their little dog, Gabriel, was there and announced our arrival. (Comical play on the name totally intended by Barry.) We laughed and talked and prayed together going long past our intended time. What a delight.
Of course, we also checked in with old friends who live there, as well. But most of this trip was given to quiet times of prayer and reflection. Long walks on the beach. (Bundled up, of course. We're totally Floridians now.) Lots of reading and even a bit of writing. Being early risers allowed us to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset each day. This sunrise was particularly brilliant; it looked like the sky was on fire.
But no matter how far we roam, there's no place like home. This smile, along with eight others just as precious were here to greet us when we returned.
I have stories and pictures about our Thanksgiving to share but I'll save them for the next post. I don't know whether your Thanksgiving was quiet or loud; many or few; bountiful or slim. I'm not sure if you ate togheter in old places or if perhaps you were joined by some new faces. HOwever you celebrated, my prayer for you today is that you may approach this season filled with peace and a quiet assurance that God is with us in it all. A heart of Gratitude will Always be Filled!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Too Much?!

How often are we tempted to throw up our hands in frustration and declare to whomever may happen to be standing near enough to hear, "This is just TOO Much!"?

That phrase is often accompanied by, "I simply cannot believe this!" And the ever popular, "What were they thinking?!" 

I've been tempted to fly headlong down that pathway many times.  But especially this past week with all the election chaos going on I found myself asking, "Just exactly how much is TOO much?" 

Let me start out with a picture of this adorable kid, which will help you smile in the evaluating . . .

This was taken of Andrew Ryder who turned 1 year old in August.  Isn't he just squish-ably delightful?!  (That was, of course, a rhetorical question.) 

Andrew is number four on the Smith lineup of children.  He is the bonus blessing which Meagan and Nathan joyfully welcomed into their little tribe.  People often react with shocked expressions when told they have four children and that the last two boys are only 13 months apart.  

Sometimes people even respond, "Wow!  I don't know how you do it.  That would be Too Much for me." And yet somehow with God's grace, Meagan and Nathan carry on; usually choosing joy and smiles.  

The Smith Family

Now, please don't misunderstand.  They are both very hard working individuals.  Nathan works long hours for the Publix Corporation in Lakeland.  Meagan is a stay-at-home mom who also nannies and runs a business on the side. They both volunteer in several areas of our church.  Their life is one of constant motion.

The above picture was snapped a few weeks ago.  It happened very quickly before everyone broke free and took their loud selves dashing off in four different directions.   This picture gives you a better glimpse of their current reality . . .  

Date night - 2020

Last night, Frank and I offered to stay with the children after they were in bed so Nathan and Meagan could take a little ride.  We had started a movie and they both sat down to watch with us a few minutes before leaving.  This was the state of things after about 20 minutes.  (Made me smile, too.)

Meagan asked me last week why I thought she was feeling so overwhelmed.  I almost laughed out loud before I realized she was totally serious.  So I took a moment and ran down the quick list of why I thought "overwhelmed" might be a legitimate feeling for her.

Sold their home.  Bought a home.  Glitches of a new build. Moved in to two bedrooms [with parents] while waiting for house to be completed.  Babies kept waking each other up sharing the bedroom with Meg and Nathan. No sleep for anyone.  Noah sent home from school as a classmate had Covid.  Oh, wait!  School became virtual for two weeks, so he had to be kept on task while she simultaneously wrangled three little boys 2 and under.  All the while making decisions about what to purchase for the new home . . . on a tight budget.

Whew! Now, that would be too much for my plate.  However, their unsettled life seems to be a perfect picture of the things we're all currently facing.  

As I've talked with different friends, many have been asking, "Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why does everything just feel like it's Too Much?!"  Maybe you're wondering the same thing.  (You may also be wondering what my point of encouragement is today.)

I think it's found in a simple truth Frank often rehearses for me.  When we start feeling overwhelmed by life, we must remember God's promise to provide Grace equal to or greater than the trouble. 

Years ago, we read a story from the life of Corrie ten Boom whose family hid Jews during the years of the holocaust.  The Nazis did eventually discover their attempts and arrested them all.  Corrie was the only one of her family to survive the concentration camp where they were sent. 

In the story, Corrie told of expressing her anxious thoughts to her father during the earliest days of their work. She was afraid it was all just too much.

"Papa, I don't think I have the courage I need if they come for us." Her heart was seeking comfort from her father.  His profound answer to her has carried us many times.

"Corrie, when we travel on the train when do I give your ticket to you?"

"Just as we get on the train, Papa."

"You don't need the ticket before we get on the train, do you?"

"No, Papa."

"That's how it is with God's grace.  When you need the courage, He will give it to you.  You don't have it today because you don't need it yet.  So don't worry, little one.  When you need the grace and courage, He will give it to you."

Don't you think that truth is appropriate for you and I today? Life right now (especially here in the United States) could be overwhelming.  A Pandemic.  Lockdowns. An Election.  Great Uncertainty. But there is also GRACE available for us if we will simply lean in to the One who so lavishly provides.

May I echo the words of Corrie's wise father for you today, Dear Reader?  When you need the courage to speak up or to remain silent, you will have it.  When you need the grace to keep moving forward, it will be available.

Don't give way to worry, fear or anxious thoughts.  This moment in history is not Too Much for you and I to navigate, if we are trusting in Christ.  We were born at this time for a purpose. Let's choose to Embrace the Grace available and step into the roles assigned to us.  

Grace to match and exceed every need?  Now, that is just Too Much, isn't it?

If you'd like the Embrace the Grace family to pray with you during this time, just leave your name or a short request in the comment box.  We will gladly pray with you for the courage you need.