Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pools, Predators and Protectors

Well, it seems this was the month to get several different family experiences on the books.

We visited my dad the end of May and took our two oldest grandsons along for the first time.  Such a GREAT experience.

Then early June brought the tea party of the ages.  Madison Riley turned 5 and needed a special event for such an important birthday.  We had wonderful time treating Madi and her cousins (Abby and Ava) to a high tea at "Franco's Tea Room."  They caught the humor immediately and loved it.

Franco's Tea Room

Celebrators and Papa (Madi @center)

Last weekend, we made a quick weekend trip to Orlando as a family.  Please remember when we say "family" we're talking about 17 people and that's just grandparents, parents and children.  We now officially qualify as a tribe, I think.

Yes, that's ALL one family

We went to the pool several times.  I can not explain to you how hot it was while we were there.  The humidity threatened to melt all our plans.  But this is a hardy lot.  We pressed on and the pool gave us the refreshing playtimes we needed.

I dare you to look at this picture and not smile
Ava and Noni

Our time at the local zoo was truly eye-opening.  The boys were a bit disappointed that there weren't any lions but the snake displays more than made up for it.  We kept finding our little ones pressed as close to the windows as possible.
Noah and Abigail

Spencer, Madi and the Snake

As we viewed all the different creatures, we reminded the children how creative God is.  "Look at how amazing this rhinoceros is with all his protective armor.  God created him with exactly what he needs for where he lives."

When we got to the exotic bird displays, one of the girls commented on all the different colors.  "God made them extra beautiful!"  All creation tells of the majesty of God.  You can definitely see His handiwork when you visit a zoo.

River Otter Show

I could go on with several stories within the weekend story but I wanted to save time to share the next great picture.  Abigail Grace Schreck turned 8 today which seems impossible.  She is such a natural nurturer and smart student that Noni and Papa can't help but be proud of her.

We took her for her birthday lunch and Spencer joined us because his was overdue.  They chose the restaurant and we had a great time laughing and hearing stories.  The waitresses even gathered around and sang Happy Birthday to her.  She blushed.

The best moment was when a group of young servicemen started to leave.  The children noticed them earlier so Papa had talked about how we should honor men and women willing to defend our country and protect our freedom.

As the young men started to pass our table, Frank spoke up thanking them all for their service.  That's when we got the surprise gift.  The first soldier asked whose birthday we were celebrating.  Abby piped up, "Me!"  He knelt beside her and peeled the flag badge off the shoulder of his uniform.  "Do you know why this seems to be backwards?" he asked.  "No, Sir."

He patiently explained that the flag would be flying that way if they were carrying it into battle.  "So, we wear them on our uniforms this way to remind ourselves that we always run toward the battle, never away from it."  He then produced a similar badge giving one to Abby and the other to Spencer. Later, when we got into the car, Abby Grace looked at her flag and said, "I will never forget this as long as I live."

New Friends

If it looks like the children are beaming, they are. When we asked for a picture, the sergeant quietly instructed the other men, "Surround them."  The simple directive brought tears to our eyes.  We know that these (and others like them) serve as protectors every day for those we love.

The picture reminds me of a favorite bit of scripture.  Psalm 125:2 says, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever."

Now THAT'S a Gift!

How about you?  Do you have a favorite summertime memory from your childhood?  Has your family been able to find a creative way to gather in spite of the current restrictions?  We'd love to read your experiences in the comment section.....

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

It's Generational

Happy Father's Day to all the men who dare to follow Embrace the Grace!

I'm so very grateful for the male gender that perfectly offsets and compliments the female gender.  God certainly knew what He was doing, didn't He?!

I've adopted a great concept I read recently, "Men and women look at things differently.  Not wrong.  Not better.  Just Differently."  (Frank would like for me to keep rehearsing this concept.)

Last month, Frank and I attempted a new adventure.  We took a three day trip to visit my dad (not new) with our two oldest grandsons along (definitely new.) You may be wondering, "What's the big deal with that?  Our grandkids spend the night with us all the time."

Please remember with so many grands who are incredibly aware of fair treatment, it's a bit unusual for them to spend the night with Noni and Papa.  They come for the afternoon.  We enjoy all sorts of group activities.  But traveling with two of them and no parents was brand new territory.

Fortunately, they are just as perfect as we suspected! Spencer and Noah were great traveling buddies during the seven hours of drive time.  They are accustomed to much longer road trips having grandparents in New York and North Carolina.  So they thought seven hours was a piece of cake.

We arrived early in the afternoon and they were delighted by all the outdoor barns and equipment Papaw had open for exploration.  My dad maintains the home he and Mom shared her final years.  It's on property where he grew up as a boy and has access to the pond where he learned to fish.  A true country setting.

Learning about Papaw's boat.

At one point, I noticed Noah doing a little dance and asked if he needed to go potty.  "Umm, yes.  But I don't want to stop investigating."  Isn't that adorable?  I assured him everything would still be available for investigation once he came back outside.

There was the urgent need for a fishing trip.  So, off they went the next morning.

Waiting.  A.K.A. Fishing

I think this picture is one of my favorites.

Classic Summer Picture, Right?!

Frank told of all the loud yelling and running and rock throwing and fishing pole tangling that went into the day.  Not the best way to sneak up on fish.  But they managed to catch a few anyway.  (I think the Lord was gracious and knew my dad really HAD gone to catch fish.)

Noah was proud of his fish but didn't want to touch it.

Look at those smiles.

Final Product

I think the fishing trip may have re-sparked something in my dad because he made a change after our visit.  After years of talking about it, he finally called someone to come and build a proper dock on his part of the pond. You can't really see it but he's beaming in this picture.  I'm so happy for him to have a place to sit, relax and contemplate.  Oh, and to fish, of course.

Daddy has always been a patient teacher when someone expresses interest in learning to fish.  I'm glad he got a chance to fish with a couple of his great-grandsons.  Together, they made a memory that won't soon be forgotten.  And who knows but what they may have created a new tradition that will be generational in its passage. 

When we were young parents, Frank and I received good advice from our mentors, Bob and Martha.  They encouraged us that sharing our faith in Christ needed to be a natural part of life in order for our children to take it as their own. They said we needed to be intentional and patient if we wanted our children to love Christ the way we do.

Their wonderful advice was based on a scripture passage from Deuteronomy 6.  "Impress them [these commandments] on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  You can also talk about your own love for Jesus while fishing.

I'm so very grateful that the men of our family are all Christ followers.  They each came to a point in their journey where they chose to give Jesus priority.  Their choices tell me that generational relationship and instruction is indeed the best way to go.

Frank and our "Sons"

How about you?  Is fishing part of your family's traditions?  How did you mark Father's Day?  Please share with us in the comment section..... 

Friday, June 5, 2020

When Silence is NOT Golden

(Warning:  This is a post sharing my heartfelt emotions about a tragic issue.)

I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd.

Now please understand, I grew up in a culture that would urge me to not make such a statement.  From an early age it was drilled into my head.   "Silence is Golden."  "You shouldn't be so outspoken about things." "Children are to be seen and not heard." "Keep your opinion to yourself."  

But in this instance, I can not keep silent.

It's true that I do not know all the circumstances surrounding this murder.  I do not know the history of the men involved.  I know nothing about their life choices nor their character.  Those facts are irrelevant to what I have seen and read was acted out.

George Floyd was a human being killed by another human being who had pledged to protect life.  His life was ended while additional human beings looked on but did nothing to intervene.

This murder shocked and sickens me the same way I'm sickened by the 3,000 murders of unborn babies that will take place in America today.  [CDC estimate]  My heart breaks for the elderly human beings who will be marginalized and even considered better off if euthanized.  I grow weary praying for the thousands of women and young men trapped in sexual slavery in the U.S. and abroad. 

When did life become so cheap?  When did selfishness overtake self-sacrifice as an acceptable behavior?  When did we, as human beings, fall into this deep pit?

Actually, this level of depravity isn't the result of a slow decline.  It's not a new condition in our world.  We fell into the pit of sin when Adam and Eve chose self-satisfaction over self-denial, obedience and self-discipline.

Many like to believe we have evolved; we're now enlightened citizens living in the 21st century.  But every time we choose self over service to others, we once again sentence ourselves and our children to remaining in that nasty pit.

Only a heart filled with genuine compassion for others can equip us to see the way out.  Only a life trusting in the saving power of Christ can experience enough hope to keep pointing others toward freedom.

I am so very grateful for the countless men and women who faithfully serve on the front lines.  We benefit daily from those (unlike the four in MN) who put their lives on the line to protect, even when faced with rioting mobs.  We have all been thankful for the sacrifice of health professionals and first-responders during this unbelievable pandemic.  We can not overstate our gratitude for these public servants.

Frank and I sat with an African-American family this week talking honestly about this tragedy.  It was their son, a 20 year old college sophomore, who summed up the situation best.  "This isn't a matter of color, Pastor Frank."  He looked at us resolutely and said,"It's a matter of the heart!"

Amen and Amen!

This post is perhaps one of the most controversial I've ever written.  It certainly is uncomfortable, to say the least.  But I want to use my voice (and any platform I'm given) to declare this basic truth: Life is Precious!  Disregard for human life is WRONG.

I also want to be faithful to remind us all that our help and hope will never be found in other people.

We must acknowledge that no matter our color, culture, or current zip code, we (as human beings) are all broken and ALL in need of a Savior who can hear our cry for help.  This verse took on new significance for me this week.

"But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help.  He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears."  2 Samuel 22:7

Others are watching to see how you will respond to the wrongs of this world.  May I urge you, don't remain silent.  I want all these children to grow up knowing that their voice matters.

Future World Changers

Use your words to pour the contents of your broken heart into the loving hands of our Heavenly Father.  Ask the Spirit of God to align your perspective to His.  Then open your mouth and believe the promise found in 2 Samuel 23:3 "The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his words are upon my tongue."

Isn't that the kind of enlightenment we all need in this 21st century?

Thank you each one for taking time to read this post.  I invite your reflections (whether you agree or disagree) in the comment section below.  Dialogue helps direct our thinking.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

Celebrating Differently!

Although social distancing and quarantine and masks and gloves will continue to be part of our lives during this season, Covid-19 can NOT stop the celebrations.  Weddings, birthdays, graduations.  They all go on - they just look different.

The Hawley family just entered our biggest season of continual celebrating.  It began with Mother's Day which we worked out to be a family only gathering at the Schrek's home.  John and Joy wanted to host but John didn't want Joy to do any of the work.  He prepared the meal and even surprised her by setting up long tables complete with linens, china and stemware.  It was beautiful!

(All the other fellas jumped in to help clean up since John had cooked and set up.)

These are the Beauties who made me a Mama

These are the "grand girls"- Madi, Ava, Abby #richnoni

The girls and I enjoyed a lovely, carefree meal topped off with cards and gifts.

Then we moved to Birthday Celebrating.

This guy turned two!  We can hardly believe it to be honest.  Parker is quite the little athlete.  He loves playing soccer with his dad and he throws balls with his left hand almost every time.  He is SO smart!

He has been "talking" for quite some time; we just haven't been able to understand anything he was saying.  As I think back, I seem to remember ALL our grandchildren doing that.  I guess when you're born into a verbal family, you jump in at the deep end and start doggie paddling until Your words start making sense to everyone else.

Parker Franklin McGhee (& Noni)
He is also a snuggle bear still.  So, I smoosh him every chance I get.  I know all too well, this season passes quickly.

Singing HIS song

Our next celebration was for this little doll baby.  Ava is now officially three years old and boy does she know how to use those adorable dimples to their best advantage.  I watched the other day as her mom (Joy) asked about Ava's participation in a particular untimely incident.  Ava pondered a split second then looked up at her mom and flashed the biggest, sweetest smile you ever saw.  I had to turn my head so Ava wouldn't see Noni caving to her cuteness.  Mama wasn't swayed and Ava was disciplined.  But Man!  I don't know how Joy stays so strong. 
Ava Quinn Schreck
Ava loves playing with dolls and swimming and her trampoline and her brothers and sister.  She runs most everywhere she goes and has a hug and smile on the ready for everyone she encounters.  (Yes, John and Joy have curtailed her hugging during this time.)  I've used the next picture before but it shows her personality in such a perfect way.

Ms. Congeniality

Today I'm cleaning our house to get ready for the next celebration.  We will all attend the outdoor graduation of this fine fella this evening.  (If the rains hold off.)

Noah Jacksen Smith - Kindergarten Grad

It doesn't seem possible that Noah has now completed his first step in the educational ladder.  Meagan says he had a great year in spite of the interruptions.  (Fortunately, our girls are already educators so they stepped into home schooling armed with a bit more experience than others.)

Noah played t-ball for the first time this year and discovered he's really good at it.  All that running and jumping he's been doing since he learned how to walk came in very handy.  He is such a hard worker and is truly kind to his sister and younger brothers.  We couldn't be more proud.  

Smith Fam (See how cool he is?)
I suddenly realized this post includes a picture of most of the grands.  So here is one more just for good measure and to make you smile.  I especially love how Zach is hugging Parker on the left.  

Mama's Treasure
I'm aware that so many of you have been unable to gather with family during this pandemic.  I'm sending you a virtual hug right now!  And hopefully, these pictures will bring a smile.  (Many were taken well before the outbreak.)  

As a family, we've also been mindful of the recommended guidelines.  We've discussed our meeting times and carefully measured our options.  We've kept them shorter and much fewer.  As essential workers, our situation is unusual - Frank and I work with Kristin and John.  Then Meagan works as nanny for Kristin.  Hard to avoid one another with a situation like ours.

It's off to Sams now for the pizza and drinks and fruit (as per Noah's request) we will need for our quick party this evening.  

Blessings to you and those around you!  Keep safe, Keep smiling and Keep looking up!

How about you?  How has the pandemic affected your family gatherings and celebrations?  Please share with us in the comment box below....

Monday, April 27, 2020

New From the Old

There are so many NEW things in my life right now I hardly know where to begin.

First off is the NEW look of the blog.  Do you love it?  I'm so happy that it reflects this new season in my life.  Cody McGhee (aka son-in-law #3) designed it and helped update all the information.  He worked with another marketing genius, Ashley Scanlan.  I think they did a superb job.  I can't wait to hear your thoughts.  (Special thanks to Amanda Bock Hoggard for my original design.  I loved it so much I hadn't changed it for 10 years.  Well done!)

There are several NEW things I want to share with you today.  They seem to have all come about while we are in the middle of a New way of living.  And while I'm writing about many new things, they really are New things simply coming from many Old things.

Let me back up and explain.

Sunday Coffee with GGC

This picture represents the NEW way we're "doing church."  Frank and I serve as lead pastors for the most amazing congregation in the history of forever, Garden Grove Church.  They love us and one another as ardently as we love them.  For us to be socially distanced from one another is genuinely painful.

Fortunately, our fantastic associate (John Schreck, aka son-in-law #1) and the media team he has developed were able to help us with the disconnection part.  They stepped up to the challenge and were able to help us begin broadcasting our services online from the very first week.  (If you zoom into this picture, you'll see Frank on the TV screen behind the cups.)  We tape our entire service on Saturday mornings then air them at our normal time, 10 am, on Sundays.

Sunday Worship Service in our Living Room

This is very new for us.  But fortunately the services and relationships and truth shared were all familiar elements.  We've spent fifteen years learning together and developing our mutual love for God's Word and for one another.  So the new approach didn't rock us, it simply breathed New life on what was already an Old, well-established fire.

Feel free to join us before or after your own Sunday services.  Go to: gardengrovechurch.com and it will lead you to our Facebook page.  Services can also be viewed after the fact.

Then there's this New thing:

My Newly Created Professional Page

I now have my own professional page or author page.  Cody and Ashley also worked on this for us.  Together they created this beautiful page to highlight my work as a speaker and writer.  Doesn't it look so very official?

It looks so official because well, it IS official.  I have this other New thing to share on my new author page.

I'm a Published Author!!

Can you hear the high-pitched squealing that's happening here in central Florida?!  Believe me it will be louder when my copies arrive on my doorstep.  No, my name isn't listed on the cover because this is a compilation of works.  Some twenty women came together to share their personal stories of God's amazing grace.  Grace that is as old as time itself.  (Once again, New from the Old.)

I have dreamed of becoming a published author since first learning to read.  That magical draw of words pulling us into stories both truth and fiction has had a hold on me for decades.  The dream of offering my own words for readers to enjoy is rather old.  But I find myself in a wonderful new season where the old dream is taking shape in new venues.  And I'm thrilled!

(Special thanks to Becky Smith for once again editing my work so that the publishers made almost no changes.  You're the BEST!)

So what does all this new springing from the old have to do with you?  Had you wondered that?  Well, let me turn the question back to you.

What in your life is New from the Old during this time of upheaval?

During our trip to Israel last year, our tour guide Eli taught us an amazing truth.  "How is it that we can say this olive tree is over 2000 years old?"   He asked the question as we stood in the Garden of Gethsemane looking at trees that would have sheltered Jesus as He prayed.

"The answer is found in the way an olive tree grows," Eli motioned us forward to better observe the tree.  "Do you see how the new shoots are growing inside the bark of the tree?"  He pointed to the tender shoots as he went on to explain.  The older parts of an olive tree actually expand making room for young shoots to form.  This way the youngest shoots are protected from external elements and have the best chance to flourish. 

An Olive Tree in Israel

New from the Old.

The ancient olive trees never really die because they continue to provide room and nurture new growth.  I cried standing in that public place listening to Eli explain the process.  I cried because I knew two things were certain:

  1. I need to never bury a dream no matter how old.  That dream is the incubator serving as a safe place for the new things in my life to spring forth.
  2. I must watch for those around me who need the nurturing protection of my life experiences in order to be encouraged toward their own dreams being realized.  
That's a lot to ponder on a Monday afternoon.  But for someone, it's a timely question.  Spend some time thinking about your own experience during this pandemic.  What is New that is springing to life from the Old for you?

I'd love to hear about your observations in the comment section below.  And please take a moment to visit my new author page.  If you would, please click the like button.  Blessings! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Tale of Two Trees

I want to tell you a little story of two trees.

These are trees I pass routinely when I take my main route to work.  (There are several different routes we can take to get to work/church.  I vary them often . . . just because.  "Variety is the spice of life!" was one of my mom's favorite sayings.)

So, back to the two trees.

The first tree is barren and rather sad looking.  Scraggly, uninviting, down-right ugly.  If not for the crisp blue of the sky I captured in this picture, there would be no indication of life.  In fact while driving by, I've often wondered if the owners shouldn't just cut it down.  Honestly, what purpose does it serve?

Tree #1

The second tree is the complete opposite.  It is absolutely bursting with vibrant color.  Delicate, bloom laden branches wave gracefully in the morning and afternoon breezes.  The lavender blossoms and green leaves backed by the brilliant blues of the sky create a breath-taking scene.  I find myself anxious to round the corner and experience the thrill of spotting this tree twice each day.

Tree #2  
Quite the difference, don't you agree?  So tell the truth.  When you compare what the two trees offer, wouldn't you agree with me that the first one would serve better as firewood?  I mean, really!

Except, look again.  A little more closely this time.  Can you see what I'm talking about?

These are not two different trees.  These are actually pictures of the same tree just taken at two different times.  Surprised?

The first picture was taken in January.  That day was cold and nasty. Rain clouds are just outside the frame.  Actually,  it was rather bleak by Florida standards.  The second picture was taken week before last.  The day was warm and spring was literally"bursting out all over," to quote Rogers and Hammerstein.

The first picture was taken with this blog post in mind.

I knew I would have to wait patiently for several weeks to write it.  But because I've been passing this tree for over five years, I knew it was just a matter of time.  Eventually, the ugly branches would begin to bloom, supporting the fabulous lavender flowers and tender, pale green leaves as they pushed their way into the sunlight.

If we're honest, there are times when all we can see are the barren, ugly, scraggly parts of our lives.  We hope for beauty but there is none to be seen.  We long to see purpose but it's hidden from view.  We feel we have nothing of value to offer.

In those times, it's vitally important that we exercise patience.  Don't Give Up!

The first picture is not the whole story.  And if you're in an ugly season of life, please hear me calling to you, "This moment is NOT the whole story."

I've lived through those times, too.  Times like now when everything around us feels shrouded with uncertainty and ugliness.  We're hoping for things to return to normal.  We long to see at least a small semblance of what we can embrace.

But this moment in time isn't the whole story.  If we exercise patience and faith, we can eventually see fruitfulness begin to bloom from our barrenness.

Isaiah 55:8-9 has long been a favorite Bible passage for me:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Beautiful, right?!

Dear Reader, please understand that God created that tree to respond to the seasons.  In just a few weeks, the delightful lavender blooms will all drop away and the leaves will push to the forefront.  The tree will spend the better part of this year serving as a magnificent shade tree.  (Much needed here in FL.)

I didn't create the tree.  So the first year I saw it, I didn't understand the barren branches would only be like that for a short while.  Imagine my utter joy when I first rounded the corner on my way to work and realized it had become such a show-stopper of beauty.

God created you and I with the ability to respond to the seasons, as well.  Just because you don't see beauty and fruitfulness in your life right now doesn't mean it isn't there.  

Don't give up, Dear Reader.   God has thoughts and plans for you that are so much higher.  Your season of service will come.  Be patient.  And watch for the beauty that will soon bring delight to all who observe it!

How about you?  Have you been feeling more like the first tree, lately?  Does it seem like your season of barren living has gone on too long?  Or maybe you've started seeing a few blooms of hope.  We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.......

Thursday, March 26, 2020

One Little Step

What an absolutely CRAZY time we find ourselves experiencing.  Right?!  The emotional pressure (no matter what type work you normally do) is extreme.  Every decision feels bigger than life and harder than ever before.  Some people find themselves frozen in place; totally overwhelmed with all the adjustments needed.

So, I wanted to share with you some pictures of our little people.  Hopefully their smiles will give you some simple, joyful thoughts for focusing on today.  For example, this trio of cutie-pies.  Now why do you suppose Walmart offered these little dresses in Florida instead of in Michigan?

'Orange' you glad to see me?
What about this adorable diva?  Ava will turn three this summer and she already has all the personality that can be packed into one tiny human.  She came running in my office last week, gave me a big hug, flashed an angelic smile and said, "Noni, I have a mint?"  You know I gave it to her.

Ava Quinn, Personality Plus

Ava, Abby Spencer and Zach are staying with Noni and Papa this week.  Joy and John had planned a massive home improvement project for Spring Break which would include wall removal, paint, new flooring and all the dust that goes with such.

Their plan was perfect.  Weeks ago, John lined up men at church to help at different stages.  His dad and grandad were flying down from New York.  Together, they would easily knock it out in one week.  Frank and I would be in El Salvador on a missions trip so the Schrecks would house-sit for us.  No Fumes.  No Mess.  No Problem.

All that was before Covid 19 came onto the scene.  Coronavirus took all their well thought out plans and threw them to the wind.  No flights.  No missions trip.  No help available.  Pull the plug, right?One small problem - they had already knocked out the wall and ripped up the flooring.  No where to go but forward.  So forward we went.

Frank has been filling in when able, helping John as best he can.  Joy and I are holding down the fort trying our best to think of fun activities that don't involve technology.  One afternoon, we even raked leaves.

Noah, Spencer and Zach

The kids did their best to make that time entertaining.  Spencer and Abby lamented the fact that there was no representative of Guiness' World Records to see the largest leaf pile in history.  They made "leaf angels," the best substitute in FL for snow angels.  They raced to see who could bag faster and gave instruction to the younger ones.  The other side of the yard still needs some work but a lovely time was had by all.

Parker McGhee, AKA "Gangsta"

It seems Parker has taken up rap singing, during this time of self-entertainment.  We'll have to wait and see if he has the king of talent that can propel him beyond singing for his family in their living room.  Based on the "cuteness" factor, we expect ticket sales to go through the roof!

Four Generations: Mother, Son, Mother, Son
The youngest little Smith is Andrew Ryder.  We can hardly believe he's already sitting up, smiling, responding to his name and all the other things a baby usually does.  What a treasured picture this is for us.  I especially love that Mom Hawley is looking over at her own son. Baby boys soon become grown men with families of their own.  Life moves very quickly, friends.  We should all live accordingly.

As pastors, we've had to try and think of new ways to stay connected with our church family.  Kristin and I spent an afternoon creating a chart for phone connection.  Every family is connected to one of our many capable leaders.  The entire congregation can be contacted within a matter of minutes should information need to go out or should plans change.  (We also use email and Facebook but nothing beats the sound of a familiar voice asking how you're doing.)

We changed our mid-week dinner to a "Drive-Thru" and provided a packet with sermon notes for Sunday's live stream.  

We also offered prayer
This was our first attempt to live-stream our church service.  Our tech team did an amazing job morphing in order to accommodate our needs.  We had a full worship team, an object lesson for children and a great sermon of comfort.  This is our family worshipping together in a new way.  (Yes, we told them to move back from the television right after snapping this.)

"New Sunday Service"
(You can join us by going to Garden Grove Church on Facebook.  Wednesdays are at 6PM and Sundays are at 10AM.)

Laughter is vitally important for us all.  So, last week Frank and I enjoyed a lovely time with friends, Gene and Carol Kent.  Because here in Florida we're experiencing some shortages, we took a little gift for them.  

Yes, we DID gift them toilet paper

I'm trusting at least one of these made you smile.  Or maybe even laugh out loud.

A little laughter is good medicine in times of uncertainty.  I think anxiety, tension and fear are fueled by that one word, uncertainty.  Since the introduction of coronavirus just weeks ago, we've all found ourselves with more questions than answers.  And such a high level of uncertainty naturally creates negative feelings.  They can even cause us to freeze in our tracks.

My word of encouragement for you is this: when life seems to be out of control (like now) it's the little steps that matter most.  We can't afford to stay frozen by fear.  And it often takes only one little step forward to break out of that grip.  Let me encourage you - take one step, today.  Don't try to grapple with ALL that is going on, just make one small change.

We can actually add to the struggle when we expect too much of ourselves.  I've seen the list many friends are touting for this time of self-isolation:
  • Clean and sanitize all cupboards, cabinets and closets.  
  • Read all those books stacked beside my nightstand.
  • Write a book!
  • Write a letter to every relative I've ever known.
  • Train my children in all areas of social etiquette.  
Dear friends, please give yourself a break!  Just for today, you might want to choose an activity from this list instead:
  • Turn off the television.  
  • Step outside and get a deep breath of fresh air.  
  • Send a text.  
  • Take a nap.
  • Remember a funny joke and let yourself laugh.
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Light a candle and read a devotional.
Then tell yourself, "This is precisely what I need to be doing at this moment.  It's the one little thing I've chosen."  Then allow yourself to enjoy the moment.  It truly is the little steps that can break the grip of fear and remind us, we serve a BIG God who hasn't forgotten about us at all.  

With that said, Grayson Smith asked if he could be the one to sign off today -

"See ya later, alligator!"

What is one little step you plan to take today?  Would you please share it in the comment section?  Your comment may encourage a wave of peace flooding the hearts of other readers.  Thank You!