Monday, September 16, 2019

Mama and Ms. Anne

So the two ladies in my title never met one another.  They were very much the same and completely different all at the same time.  Their love for me and my love for them - absolutely certain.  Their lives intersected this afternoon.  Allow me to explain . . .

My morning had a routine start.  Some reading; emails; a couple phone calls.  Then it was off to the imaging center for a mammogram I had put off too long.  Oh, Joy!  I took two Tylenol and was out the door by 10 AM.

(Oddly, I could NOT find my car keys and after a desperate search, I gave up and used the spare.  When I came out of the imaging center and reached into my purse,  the keys floated right to the surface from a pocket where they'd been hiding all along.  Perhaps my subconscious mind just refused to see them hoping to avoid the procedure all together.  Sigh!)

I decided to make a quick stop at a consignment shop and one other store before heading back home for lunch.  Many of my friends call this "Retail Therapy" but if I spend too much time shopping, I need therapy when I've finished.

The consignment store yielded an item Meagan needs for baby Andrew.  And as I had suspected, the other store had a couple of sections marked 75% off.  My kind of section!  I'm traveling to Pennsylvania this week to do a women's conference and to speak for a church.  If a new outfit happened to be on the 75% off rack, it would certainly merit investigating.

Unfortunately, the two dresses I tried on both left me less than thrilled.  But there was this pair of pj's that had caught my eye.  I must admit, pajamas are a special delight for me at this point in my life.  These were soft and snuggly.  The bottoms were just long enough to cover my feet and the top had short sleeves which I especially like.  One problem, the top button was missing.

I took the pj's to the register and asked if they were reduced any more because of the missing button.  It may surprise you that I would ask given the pj's were already 75% off.  But I happened to know this store is great with customer service.  The manager came over, paused a moment then asked me, "Would another 20% be okay?"  "Absolutely!  Thank you," was my prompt reply.

When I got home, I decided to look for a button to sew on right away.  I was afraid that waiting would allow me settle for a safety pin and that would never do for such a cute top.  Now please bear in mind, I'm no seamstress!  But I do keep a Tupperware box under my bed which had belonged to my friend, Ms. Anne.  It was among the many things she gave to me before she died.

There were a few buttons in the box but none that would fit.  I started scrambling to find a button.  (Some of you will be appalled to learn that I typically toss spare buttons because I so seldom need them.  It's my attempt to keep clutter at bay.)

Finally, I spotted a tiny ziplock bag in the corner of my jewelry box.  The bag held one earring and a tiny blue button.  I knew immediately, Mama had given me the bag.  She had found the earring at her house and thought it was mine.  The button had such a lovely pearl look she had saved that for me, too . . . just because.

I used the needle and thread Ms. Anne had given me to sew on the little pearl button Mama had given me and got tears in my eyes thinking how they'll both be remembered every time I wear my new pj's.

Don't you find yourself hoping you do things that will cause people to think fondly of you even when you aren't around?  Mama moved to Heaven almost eleven years ago.  Ms. Anne moved there last year.  But today, both ladies felt very near because of small acts of love they probably considered insignificant at the time.  (Yes, I'm crying again in case you're wondering.)

Mama and Ms. Anne . . . feisty, funny and forever etched in my heart.  They didn't meet here but I look forward to introducing them some day in Heaven.  When I tell them the story of the button, they will both make fun of me for being so sentimental, I feel certain!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Passion for Produce

Yes, I do love fresh fruits and vegetables!  Ask any of my family or close friends.

However, this post is about something totally unrelated to what you could find in a supermarket.

I was recently talking with a friend who has lived a life full of adventure.  After experiencing the heartbreak of being abandoned by her husband, she decided to go back to school . . . in her 50's!  She finished her nursing degree, added a counseling degree and accepted a position as an English teacher/school nurse . . . in Korea! After more than two decades alone, she married a wonderful man whom she met . . . on line!  Nope, not making this up at all.

She is a hero of sorts, in my book.  Her tenacious faith in God and fierce love for her family are benchmarks I'm reaching for, as well.  Susan (not her real name because I didn't get to ask permission to share) is still incredibly active even though well past her 80th birthday.  Her vivacious spirit and undaunted love for people inspire me.

While we were talking, I felt prompted to have her pray for me.  (Frank and I have always been careful about who we ask to pray over us.  We make sure they are living a life we want to emulate.)  She, her husband and I formed a little prayer circle that became a sanctuary right there in the middle of people swirling all around.  She prayed the most tender but direct prayer I've heard in a long while.

Just as we prepared to part ways, she looked me dead in the eye and said, "Keep Producing!"  I was a little taken aback and I'm sure my face reflected my puzzled thoughts.

"Keep producing at least a little something every day," she explained.  "That way, when God opens the door you'll have material and stories to draw from.  He WILL open the door in due time.  Make sure you're ready."

No way to misunderstand that message!

Her words took me back to a moment when I was a young mother.  My life was on the fast track.  I had three little girls under the age of 6.  My husband was working far too many hours and had us involved in multiple projects that seemed to require extra effort at least every other month.  I was doing my best to keep up but it was a stretch that had me close to the snapping point.

A lady I respected walked up to me one Sunday evening and said, "Sheri, the Lord wanted me to share this scripture with you."  She gave me the passage written on a scrap of paper and left.  When I finally got time to read it the next day, this is what I found . . .
               Isaiah 46:4
               I will be your God throughout your lifetime -- until your hair is white with age.  I made you,  and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you.

Now many of you will think this a lovely little promise that could be made into a cross stitch and framed.  But my response was that of an exhausted mom and immature christian.  "Carry Me?!  Why does she think I need a scripture about being carried?  I'm doing just FINE, thank you!"

Yes, God is gracious and patient and I did eventually learn the bigger truth of this promise.  I believe He wanted me to understand that no matter where we are on this journey, we're never alone.  He promises in another passage to never forsake us; never to leave us.

Here's how I feel I should blend these two concepts today.  If we just stay faithful at doing the task directly in front of us, He will stay faithful in supporting us.  My job is to maintain passion for producing at least some small contribution every day.  His promise is to maintain passion for His child (that's you/me) and carry us along as we lean into His rich love.  Pretty generous exchange on God's part, I think.

So, for one more day I will understand the importance of producing.  And I will trust Him with the outcome.  Anyone game to join me in developing a passion for produce?


How about you?  Is there a word of encouragement someone gave you years ago (or recently) that has impacted your life?  We'd love to hear about it in the comment section below . . .


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Faithful Companion

Gracie Marie is, indeed, my abiding friend.

I don't write about her often but today she deserves a shout out.  You see, Gracie is our silly little black and white K9 companion.  We reference her with several other names, too. Such as:  The Princess; Goat Dog; The Vacuum; Aggravating Mutt and believe me, she has earned each of these monikers.

Some days she looks up at us with genuine distain if we dare to suggest she should move from her place on the couch.  She has been seen eating some truly disgusting things and we can always count on her to glean any food the grands may drop under our table.  She chooses the most inopportune times to not come back to me after going outdoors; sometimes making me late for the office.

Gracie is not a large dog but she is almost 13 years old.  So being 91 in doggie years, I guess she has earned the right to be a bit stubborn, rather grouchy and most definitely set in her ways. Today, however, I have only good to tell of the four-legged, fur baby entrusted to us.

What a comfort this little companion provides.  She often helps me feel I'm not alone.  Even though we both work for the church, Frank is away from home more than I with additional meetings and such.  But I never have to feel alone because Gracie is here to study me with her coal black eyes and smile at me with her crooked under bite.  (Oh yes, we also call her the Elvis Dog for that reason.)

She's smart as a whip. 

  • She knows that my tennis shoes going on after dinner mean a walk is imminent.  She starts running back and forth from the door to the couch.  
  • She knows our suitcases mean we're going away for awhile.  So she sits with her head on her paws looking up at us like we're traitors.  
  • She knows that when the grandchildren come her safest refuge is our bedroom so she runs to that door and paws to be let in.  
  • She knows that if she comes back in promptly when I'm leaving, she'll earn a treat.  (This she trained ME to do.)

I've spent the past two days trying to get over a terrible something that knocked me flat on my back.  Part of our family was diagnosed with strep and with school starting back there were already several runny noses.  Sleep had been evading me for over a week so I was a prime candidate for whatever this was.

Unfortunately, this is absolutely the worst time I could be sick.  Meagan is due to go into labor at any moment. (In fact, she and Nathan spent 5 hours in triage Tuesday night.  Frank had to go stay with the babies because Noni was fevered.)  John was out with strep.  Joy has gone back to school and needed help.  We have 5 grands in school this year.  (Noah came home from his first full day of kindergarten reporting all that had happened.  Then he paused and said, "Mommy it's just so loooong!" And promptly burst into tears.  Poor boy!  Only 12 more years, Noah.)

All this happening around me and I'm no help whatsoever.  Yesterday, for me, was literally spent moving from the bed to the couch to the recliner and back to the bed.  I usually hate NyQuil but I've chugged it down as though it were the nectar of the gods.  I knew it would help me sleep deeply and that's what I needed most.

Today, I seem to be improving but I'm well aware I must get fully recovered and back on my feet asap.  So, I stayed home from the office one more day to keep resting and to avoid spreading whatever germs are germinating in my nasal system.  (Frank has carried around the Lysol can every minute he's home.)

When I woke this morning, Gracie was there right on my side of the bed.  I had slept well past her normal time for going out but she had waited patiently.  Frank had long been awake and could have let her out but she was waiting for me.  She never whined or barked for me to get up; never even pawed at my covers.  She just waited.

Both days I've been aware that she moves from spot to spot with me.  If I'm lying on the couch, she's lying under the coffee table near my head.  If I'm in the recliner, she jumps up beside me.  If I get up to go to the bathroom, she's immediately alert and watching.  Even now as I'm writing in the dining room,  she's sprawled out on the rug beside me.

Gracie has been with us a long time and I know that she won't outlive me.  Someday, I'll have to bid farewell to this faithful companion.  But for today, I'll scratch her ears the way she likes and give her an extra treat for no particular reason at all.  Hopefully, she'll feel as loved as she makes me feel.  I'll finish with the "prayer" we've all seen from time to time. . .

"Lord, please make me the person my dog things I am!"

Monday, August 12, 2019

Morning News

Recently I've become fascinated with this bit of poetry:

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love;
    for I have put my trust in you.
     Show me the way I should go,
       for to you I entrust my life."  (Ps. 143:8 NIV)
It was written by one of my favorites, David, King of Israel. His writings are always so descriptive and make it easy to relate to his circumstances at the time.  For instance, these four lines are tucked away in a longer passage where David is describing the enemies who have been chasing him.  He is calling out to God for help; hoping he hasn't been forgotten in the grand scheme of the universe.  

While busy describing the horrible situation he finds himself in, David can't see anything good.  Then, as he often does, he intentionally turns his attention to the God he serves.  Looking at God's goodness requires looking away from the darkness of the situation.  Sure, the situation is a true nightmare.  But the light of God's faithfulness dissipates any of the shadows where fear can hide.

This has been a month that has leant itself to making me choose my focus.  Will I focus on circumstances or on the faithfulness of God?  Will I believe the report of disappointment or will I believe all things are possible with God?  Will I rehearse curses over the lives of other people or will I rehearse words of blessing?  The choice has been mine.   And although the choice has been clear, it has not always been easy.

Our church did a great series by Andy Stanley, "What Makes You Happy?"  (It's free if you'd like to watch it on Youtube.)  He makes clear that "No Thing makes you happy.  Happiness always involves a Who or Two."  Great, right?

As I studied to share one of the lessons, i was really struck with this premise he taught.  Everyone wants to experience pleasure, that desire is built into our DNA.  But if we dedicate our lives to pursuing pleasure only, that choice will eventually cost us our happiness.  Pleasure is temporary.  But genuine happiness associated with those around us and fulfilling work will carry us throughout life.

I'm just like everyone else.  I would prefer to always be experiencing pleasure; never encountering tears or struggle or defending myself from enemies.  But that isn't reality.  All of life is a struggle of some sort.

Today, my precious friend - Becky - made public a difficult diagnosis she was given last week.  Becky and I have been walking together through life for over 20 years.  We have laughed, cried, encouraged, prayed and listened.  (Actually, lots of listening to one another has gone into our friendship.  What a gift!)  We share grand babies.  We share ministry as pastor's wives.  We share a deep love for God.

Last week I listened as Becky shared a really unsettling prognosis.  My heart was jolted to the core by the numbers and evaluations she was sharing.  But the entire time, I kept remembering other times my precious friend has received negative reports.  Some physical, some emotional.  

With each new wave of trouble, my friend has steadied herself by focusing on promises from God's word.  I've watched her straighten her sagging shoulders; purse her lips with a determined air and march forward.  Her steps seemed to say, "Not giving up today!  Nope, I still believe!"

Because I've seen God be faithful to this amazing lady so many times, I fully expect to write again soon and share the medical intervention that was discovered.  I know there will come a moment where I'm able to report that she is WELL!   

That isn't today.  So along with King David I cry out on behalf of my friend, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love!"  

Would you please take a moment to pray that with me?  Thank you!  May the morning also bring you news of God's faithfulness.  May you experience His goodness in an amazing way today.  


Monday, July 15, 2019

Both True

I took part in an event this past Saturday that could only be described as:

  • Ridiculously HOT
  • Buggy
  • Exhausting
  • Nerve-Trying
  • LOUD
  • Sweaty/Stinky
  • Did I already say - Exhausting?

But that's not completely true.  The event could also be described as:

  • Hilarious
  • Eye-opening
  • Bonding
  • Heart-warming
  • Joy-Filled
  • Laughter-Filled
  • Delightful
  • Memory Making 

So which list is actually the truth, you may ask?  Well, I must honestly say - BOTH.  

Last weekend, Frank and I were in charge of the four Schreck grands for about 24 hours.  Spencer-8; Abby-6; Zach-4; Ava-2.  Yes!  We lived to tell about it.  Some of you host your grandchildren for full weeks at a time.  You hold amazing "Grandparent Camps."  I've seen your pictures on facebook and I applaud you.  

Frank and I approached our 24 hour assignment with the same intensity of focus used by navy seals for a covert operation.  We carefully laid out our plan of containment.  We discussed multiple entertainment options.  We evaluated our own strength and compared it to the fortitude of the four we were overseeing.  By Friday, we were ready!

Bedtime was a no brainer.  On my second visit to bedrooms filled with wiggly giggly children I put on my best teacher voice and said, "Noni does not want to be stern but rest is important for your body.  You must go to sleep if we're going to enjoy tomorrow together.  So now, I'm getting stern!  Go to sleep right away, please.  No more talking!"

Can you tell I had practiced?  How did it sound to you?  

For those of you who think I was over the top, please consider the following.  I love snuggling with my grandbabies.  I'm all about ice cream and later bedtimes than usual.  But Frank and I only have two laps between us.  The Schreck children are four energetic, highly motivated children who each have a plan of action at all times and who will each grow up to run something sizable someday.  My speech was somewhat motivated by fear that we could be overrun at any moment.  

I'm teasing, of course.  But we DID want to create a fun memory with these babies who rapidly grow every time we turn away then look back at them.  Spencer was the two-year old mastermind just yesterday.  Now, he's excited to be almost as tall as my shoulder.  Time Flies, friends!

We opted for a local entertainment option, Bok Tower Gardens.  It was the perfect choice.  They've recently opened a children's exploration area which is Amazing!  (We'll be taking the Smith children next week sometime.)  Frank and I were both pleasantly surprised by the fore-sight and planning that had gone into this creative exhibit designed just for children.

The oppressive FL heat was still a factor so we moved slowly from one section to the next.  But the magnificent canopy of trees offered shade.  And each exhibit offered such interesting,  hands-on activities that the participants forgot the heat momentarily. 

The walk to the center of the gardens was a bit taxing.  We had to keep promising the view would be worth it.  And just as hope was waning, we broke into a clearing and could see the massive tower constructed of pinkish marble.  Breath-taking, even for a four year old.  "Yook, Noni!  You see?!" Zach was awestruck.

The highlight wasn't the tower, of course.  It was the fifty-cents we spent on fish food for the swarming koi in the moat surrounding the tower.  The well-fed fish looked monstrous to two-year old Ava.  And Spencer kept warning everyone, "Don't stand so close!  You could fall in!"  Abby wanted to bring home a couple of them.  

Papa dutifully pushed the stroller we had packed down with items for our picnic lunch.  Then he gladly carried children too tired to walk any longer.  We seized on short teaching moments through out the day.  And yes of course, we ended our time with ice cream and even shared a peach milkshake.  Fruit and dairy are such important elements for every diet, don't you agree?

John and Joy had made arrangements for us to trade out with a sitter for baths and bedtime the second night so Frank and I could be ready for Sunday morning.  When he and I pulled into our driveway after handing them off, we just sat quietly for several minutes.  Then we smiled at one another with satisfaction.  We had made it.  

We had already invited nine guests for Sunday lunch and I still had a lot of prep work to do.  But I did Nothing!  I sat on the couch until bedtime then put on PJ's and fell onto my own pillow with a sigh of contentment.  

Frank's hometown paper used to end the local news section with this, "A Lovely Time was had by ALL!"  I believe that's true of our stinky, splendid, HOT, joy-filled adventure.

How about you?  Have you spent time with your grandchildren or perhaps have special memories of time with your own grandparents?  Please share with us in the comment section.

Monday, July 8, 2019

"Hawley Day Inn"

I hope each of you is enjoying a WONDERFUL summer season!

It seems to be hot everywhere - even in Alaska and Europe.  Places typically associated with the ability to take daily strolls along cool, lovely paths enjoying magnificent scenery.  Not so this summer.  I hear reports of people sweating all around the globe.

My constant refrain here in Florida these days is simple, "Hydrate, People!  Hydrate!"  Frank sees me coming and doesn't say hello; he simply announces how many ounces of water he's already consumed.  I nod and go on to the next person.  (That may be a bit of exaggeration but you get the idea.)

The heat may keep some people from traveling but we have friends coming in from all over the country next month.  Not literally to our house but to Orlando.  It's the year our denomination gathers and this time it's in our area.  We've already started making plans in order to connect with as many people as possible.

That's what makes the Frank Hawley family happy.  Connecting with other people.  We've found there's just so much to learn and so many memories to rehearse and so many commonalities to discover and so much LAUGHTER to be shared.  Why wouldn't you connect?

Frank and I sat down together earlier this year and had a serious conversation about connecting.  We've always enjoyed hosting people.  We know the best conversations happen among small groups.  We enjoy helping others connect, too.  So why not launch out on a bold adventure?  We determined to invite each member of our church leadership team to lunch  At our home.  Before the end of fall.

Now for some, that may not sound bold at all.  Let me clarify.  We made a list and realized we have almost thirty couples who would need an invitation.  That's a lot of chicken dinners, people!

Frank and I decided the smartest approach would be to invite them to Sunday lunch.  Longer day for us but it gives us Saturday to clean and set up.  We've developed a standard meal.  Roast, potatoes and carrots in the crockpots.  I also do bread and drinks; everyone else brings a side dish of their choice.  Simple, I know but it's about the connecting, not impressing.

In fact, I had to eat a bit of humble pie with the group we hosted yesterday.  You see, my dining room chairs have taken a bit of a hit recently.  I even bought another six chairs from a friend who was downsizing.  When two of those chairs lost a front leg suddenly, it left me short.

Our dining table easily accommodates eight.  (An answered prayer from years ago.)  But we didn't want to waste two spots just because we're waiting to get the extra chairs repaired.  So, we brought in the metal folding chairs usually reserved for family gatherings.

When I put the finishing touches on the table settings Saturday evening,  it was lovely.  My blue and white dishes were accented on a yellow table cloth and highlighted by navy napkins.  Each serving dish had a proper utensil and a slip of paper telling what it would hold on Sunday.  The house was clean and a lovely hand towel waited beside the sink in the guest bathroom.

But the seating looked hodgepodge at best.  In fact, Frank was a little concerned and offered a couple of options that would have involved mammoth effort or money we hadn't budgeted.  I waved it off by saying, "They'll only be aware of the chairs for a few minutes; we'll be sitting in them pretty quickly.  It may even make a couple of them feel more comfortable."

And that's exactly what happened.  They all arrived right on time.  Everyone started talking.  We put the food on the table.  We blessed it.  Everyone took a seat and voila, the chairs disappeared . . . completely.

Now, I must be honest and admit that I had a faltering moment Sunday morning as I scanned the table one last time before leaving. The thoughts came quickly, "This isn't as nice as I'd like it."  "What if they laugh at my jumbled mixture of chairs?"  "What if someone tells a friend how pitiful my chairs looked?"  (I'm just like every other woman on the planet.  I want people to think well of my home.)

At that moment, I had to take my thoughts in hand and rehearse the REASON for the lunch.  "It's all about Connecting; plain and simple. Where we sit has nothing to do with how we'll interact."

Armed with that reminder, I marched off to church confident the day would be good.  And you know what, it was.  Each couple had a wonderful time.  There were new friendships formed and we had a sweet time praying together at the end for our church to continue connecting and moving forward together.

During the six years we lived in Ocean Isle Beach, NC, our home was full of company during each summer season, especially.  One family would leave just as another was arriving.  We lovingly referred to our home then as "Hawley Day Inn - Where Everyone is Welcome."  Maybe we're reclaiming that title. 

The main reason I wrote this post today was to offer a nudge.  Many of you also enjoy connecting with people but you have NEVER considered inviting others to your home because it doesn't look like a magazine.  Pish Posh!  (Great term I learned while visiting England.)  Invite them anyway.

Don't be robbed of a wonderful experience just because your home isn't perfect.   They're coming to see YOU, not your carpet.  My dear friend (and co-grandparent) Linda, waited a long time to renovate her kitchen.  When Joy and John went home last Christmas the new kitchen was stunning and everyone celebrated.

But we knew Linda had never slowed her steady stream of guests while waiting for the reno to get underway.  Scores of people continued to find comfort, companionship and acceptance while sitting around her table.  (I know, because I got to experience it too.  She and John are great hosts.) 

If you aren't up for a full meal, invite some friends over for dessert and coffee.  Use paper plates.  Encourage them to bring their favorite creamer to share.  Do s'mores around a fire pit outside and have everyone bring their own chair.

Bottom line is this, if you've always thought you'd like to branch out and have someone over - do it!  Call today and set it up before the end of summer.

I have it on good authority, you'll be glad you did.  Blessings for all your summer adventures.

What would be the fun name of your home if company came frequently?  What memories do you have of visiting a friend whose home looked loved and lived-in rather than perfect?  We'd all enjoy if you share in the comment section.  

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Whatcha' Doin'?

Regular readers of Embrace the Grace are already aware - we are a BIG family!

We started out as a medium-sized tribe.  One dad.  One mom.  Three daughters.  That was the nucleus for a couple of decades.

Then husbands started being added.  Because our daughters were beautiful, brilliant and bubbly, we KNEW husbands would show up, eventually.  We had no idea they would each be such amazing men who would love our girls so richly.  Bonus!  Family gatherings picked up a bit in both volume and in fun.

After about three years, the greatest bounty began arriving - Grandchildren! First came Spencer Matthew.  Sixteen months later was Abby Grace. The next year brought Noah Jacksen.  About eighteen months later came Madison Riley and Zachariah Avery.  Ava Quinn slipped in two years later.  Then last year Parker Franklin and Grayson Oliver made their appearances.  Now we're patiently awaiting Smith Baby #4.

As you can imagine, our family dinners are no longer calm opportunities for adults to linger and connect.  We are sixteen all together and our meals resemble something more like loud, controlled chaos.  We still pause to pray together.  We still sit together at one very long table extending from the dining room into the kitchen.  (Well actually, it's two tables put together to look like one long table.)  Once someone says, "Amen!" it immediately gets LOUD again.

But we love being a BIG family.

A friend made a plaque for me last year which explains our dynamic well.  "Noni and Papa's - Where Cousins go to become Friends!"  When Madi had her birthday last month, she had the choice of inviting one friend to join her for the day.  Her choice was Abby, of course.  Spencer and Noah love being together.

Frank and I took the three oldest out this weekend to celebrate the end of their school year.  They looked out for one another and shared popcorn and laughed and enjoyed every minute.  Frank and I enjoyed being with them and watching how close they are.

We never in a million years would have guessed this would be our story for this season of life.  Our girls had traveled the country and had even visited foreign countries.  My heart was prepared for them to go away to college.  Graduate.  Meet and Marry the love of their life.  Then move to the far flung corners of the world.

It worked just like that until time for each of them to make a home with their husband.  Each couple, by turn, made the surprising decision to settle in this area.  So, Frank and I lovingly refer to this season as "Frosting Time!"  To be able to live near our children and their children is a gift we do NOT take lightly.  Trust me - we know to be grateful.

A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting out on the screened porch after dinner.  The rest of the family was spread all over our house.  Some still in the kitchen.  The young dad's playing frisbee in the back yard.  Some babies in the playroom and a couple sitting with Noni and Papa on the porch.

That's when the profound question was put to us.  Spencer (8) looked over at me and asked, "Noni, what do you and Papa DO when we're not here?"

His sincerity and puzzled expression made me smile.  He couldn't imagine our house without all the people, voices and accompanying mayhem we were experiencing right then.  For the first time in his young life, he realized that Noni and Papa didn't just sleep until the next time our tribe congregated.  With that realization came honest curiosity.

His innocent question told me two things:
1.  We're all so closely woven that he had never considered us apart from himself.
2.  He's growing into a bright, thoughtful young man.

I ran down the list of things that occupy our evening hours and weekends.  Cleaning, cooking, cards, tv, reading, phone calls, more cleaning.   He was satisfied by my answer but still looked pensive.  I've thought about his question a lot, too.

It's a classic, really.  Every maturing child at some point looks into the eyes of their mentor and asks a similar question,  "Who are you when I'm not around?"  If we aren't paying attention, we can brush off their curiosity or give some glib answer.

Bottom line is this, I want to be the same person ALL the time.  Whether I'm at work or the grocery store. Meeting a friend or having lunch with a co-worker.  With my children or not.  Being watched by my grandchildren or not.  I want to behave in such a way that whoever is near will see me the same way every time they see me.

That was most important to me when Frank and I first talked about marriage.  He had prepared to be in ministry and I knew many pastoral families.  I knew the pressure for children and the fishbowl feeling that life tends to create.  So Frank and I made a solemn promise to one another.  We would endeavor always to be the same people at home that we were at church.

An overly simplistic goal for some, I know.  But for us, it worked and continues to work.

So, I'll ask you the same sort of question Spencer asked us.  "Whatcha' Doin'?"   What do you choose to do when no one else is around?  Are you the same person all the time?  Really?

I no longer take tests at school but this was an important evaluation for me, nonetheless.  Out of the mouths of babes come some of the most profound statements.  May God grace us all to be the same people at all times and in all circumstances.

How about you?  Have your children or grandchildren asked a probing question at some point?  Please share your experience in the comment section.