Monday, June 17, 2019

Try Warmth

I recently did a live video on a simple truth I've learned.  Then realized many of you who read Embrace the Grace wouldn't have a way to watch the video.  There are probably others who might want it in a written form to use for devotions or a prayer time.  So, here you go . . .

Several years ago, I discovered a type of nail polish that really does strengthen my fingernails.  It's clear and dries quickly.  It helped my nails and if it got chipped, no one could tell. All these were selling points due to my sometimes hectic life.

The one drawback was a serious one.  The bonding agent in the polish (which makes it strengthen my nails) also becomes a bonding agent under the lid when tipped over.  In other words, after several uses the bottle often became almost impossible to open.

I would wrestle several minutes with the bottle then finally go to Frank for help.  It was SUCH a good bonding agent that many times he had to use pliers to open the closed top.

One day, I needed the polish in a hurry and of course it was stuck.  Frank went straight for the pliers.  Unfortunately, someone had moved them.  He went to look for them but carried the polish in his hand to keep him on track with the search.  After several minutes, he still had not located the pliers and I needed to go.

Frank started walking back to where I waited with the intention of explaining that the polish was still closed.  He gave the top one more twist and to his utter shock, the top came off easily!

"Look!" he exclaimed.  "The top came right off after being in my hand while I was searching.  We didn't even need the pliers."

Now, we know the secret.  When the top is stuck like cement and refuses to open, we wait.  We patiently hold it in our hand until our warmth releases the bonding agent.

The nail polish bottle is a silly item that taught me a valuable lesson.

When I discover people in my life who are closed off to me, how do I react?  Do I rush over and grab pliers hoping to force them to open up to me?  Do I pressure them with guilt or other forms of manipulation?  Or do I utilize the lesson of the bottle?  Have I tried offering them warmth and patience? Have I genuinely offered kindness which might cause them to want to open up?

This truth can be effective for parents with teenagers who have become closed off and refuse to communicate.  It's also effective for CEO's working with people who stand back and resist bringing their gifts to the team.  It's a great truth for us as pastors.  If someone is struggling, we wait and pray and trust that the kindness we offer will eventually help them open up to us.

I've long appreciated Proverbs 15:1 which says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath."  But I found it in the Passion Translation which says, "Respond gently when you are confronted and you'll defuse the rage of another.  Responding with sharp, cutting words will only make it worse."  

Did that make you say, "WOW!" ??  It certainly had that affect on me.

So, I'll leave you with this thought, dear friend.  The next time you come up against that person who seems so angry and closed off to you - try warmth.  Your act of extending patience and kindness may prove to be the very thing they need to open right up.

It's certainly worth a try!  Blessings

How about you?  Have you experienced the frustration of trying to work with someone who shuts you out?  Has that been a family member or a co-worker?  Was there a time when YOU were offered warmth that made you want to open up to someone?  We'd love to hear about your experience in the comment section.  

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Summer Travels

Many of you are in the middle of making plans for summer vacations.  I thought I'd share a piece from the book we hope to publish this summer.  Enjoy . . .

“We’re taking the scenic route.”

It became a family joke.  My dad was notorious for refusing to stop and ask for directions.  When I was a little girl, we didn’t have a constantly updating Global Positioning System to rely on.  Dad would have thought it unnecessary even if it had been available. 

The glove compartment of our yellow Rambler housed three or four poorly folded maps.  If we traveled over a hundred miles, Dad would briefly consult one of these the night before and select his route.  Everyone was to be in the car at 6 AM, ready to roll. Dad, who always drove unless he was sick, would not look at the map again.  He knew exactly where he was going and how he planned to get there.

Somehow we always arrived at our destination.  Eventually.  But at some point on nearly all of our family journeys, we would be treated to the argument that became a classic between Mom and Dad:

Mom: “Honey, are you sure we’re on the right road?”

Dad: “Yes, I know where I’m going.”

Mom:  “I don’t doubt you know where you’re going but is this the best way to get there?”

Foolish Sibling:  “I remember passing that house just before we stopped for the bathroom.”

Dad (rather sternly):  “Be quiet!  We passed another one that looked like that house.”

After the exchange, we would drive on for another hour or so with tension in the air.  The radio blared country music and no one dared to comment.  Finally, Dad (totally frustrated) would pull into a service station.

“Everyone go to the bathroom!”  He would order us children.  Then he would look at Mom,  “Before you say anything, I’m going to check with the attendant . . . . . just to make you happy.”

Most times, Dad was headed in the right direction.  His chosen route just needed a little tweaking or clarifying.  But for the times we would have to turn around because we missed a road, Mom would announce to us all, That’s alright.  We were taking the scenic route.”

A scenic route is great for vacation days and free times.  But no one wants to intentionally waste precious parts of his or her life journey.  Worse yet, are those travelers who feel they’ve completely missed their destiny due to poor directions or by having followed wrong information. 

Truth is vital for every traveler.

On this journey of life, we all want to live to the full.  But in order to do that, we must be clear on two important points:
1.     We must know where we’re going.
2.     We must search out the best route for getting there.

There is a great urban legend about a battleship navigating stormy weather in unfamiliar waters.  Just after dark, a thick blanket of fog enveloped the mighty naval vessel.  Anxious, the ship’s captain remained on the bridge.

Suddenly, one of the lookouts announced, “Fixed light off the starboard side.”

It was obvious they were on a direct path with some fishing vessel lost in the storm.  The captain ordered that they signal the other ship.

“Change course 20 degrees.  We are on a collision course.”

The answer came, “Advisable for you to change course.”

The captain became angry and signaled, “I am a battleship.  Change course!”

Back came the signal, “I am a lighthouse.  Your call.”

The captain almost caused the very catastrophe he was trying to avoid.  He needed better information.  He needed to re-evaluate his plan.  He needed the whole truth.

That’s what we hope to discover in this book by looking at key truths for managing our life journey well.  We’ll discuss how to identify genuine truth. We’ll highlight common roadblocks that hinder travel.  We’ll examine our intended destination.  We’ll re-examine our plans for getting there. 

Most importantly, we’ll acknowledge the One who set a course for our lives before we were ever born.  Paul wrote to his friends in Ephesus and put it this way,  “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In other words, God knows the ideal course that will lead to your most fulfilling life.  He has already set plans in place that will move you and I toward the realization of our dreams.  We have only to listen carefully to His guidance.  Lean into the truth found in His word.

Solomon, the wise son of King David, composed one of the earliest scriptures I memorized.  He wrote:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

Doesn’t it just make sense that we should chose to follow the plans designed by Truth Himself; the One who created us?  At this point in my life I can tell you with great assurance, God is a Loving and Faithful travel companion.  You can trust Him to lead you on the surest, safest and most scenic route of all time!

 Here's to Enjoying the Journey!

Friday, May 31, 2019

What's the Difference?

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I happened up on a wonderful devotional thought during our time at Ocean Isle.  So here it is . . .

One of our favorite parts of the parsonage where we stay is the porch.  This is no ordinary porch.  It is a wide, wooden porch complete with rocking chairs and small tables to hold coffee mugs and devotional books.

The view is especially lovely.  The porch is a second-story spot overlooking a canal where fish jump, boats idle by along with swimmers, kayakers and the occasional longboat paddler.  (These people are ridiculously well toned and make me want to put down my chocolate donut in order to applaud!)

The porch is best enjoyed during the morning hours - which works just fine for Frank and I who are serious early birds.  We spent many quiet hours together this week.  Just sitting and sipping coffee or tea.  Sometimes talking, sometimes not. Mostly pondering.

As I sat looking out over the canal and the yard, I began to notice a few things.  The grass in the yard where we were staying was dry and brittle looking.  Mostly weeds and scraggly brush covered the entire area.  But the yard directly adjacent to ours looked like a snapshot straight out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The neighbor's grass was lush and a rich shade of emerald green.  Palm trees swayed majestically.  Flowering shrubs of all sorts added pops of color in carefully selected spots.  The entire yard was beautifully manicured and alive; a real treat for the eyes.

So, how was it that one yard looked like a snapshot from the Sahara desert and the other looked like a tropical paradise?  Inches from one another in distance but miles apart aesthetically.

What was the difference?

Water!  The one home owner has invested heavily in landscaping and wants to take care of the investment.  In order to keep all those lovely plants alive, water is needed.  Water every single day.  Water and lots of it.  Skipping even one week of water could have disastrous results.  Consistency is the simple key unlocking a beautiful difference evident to anyone with eyes.

While I sat on that porch observing the two yards, I had a realization.  Exactly like the two yards, we have to make consistent investments in our lives.  Time alone with Christ makes the difference for each of us. But we can't only invest occasionally.  Even making time to focus on God once a week won't be enough.   We grow best when the investment is daily.  Daily washing our minds with the Word of God allows for spiritual growth and rich beauty in our relationship.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Just a simple reminder of truth you already know.

What makes the difference?  A small daily choice which reaps huge, eternal benefits.

Hope you find it helpful!  Blessings!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Busy Month

I had no idea I had only posted once this entire month until this morning.

Please forgive my negligence!

However, I haven't been just sitting.  There was a week where Kristin and Cody went on vacation to celebrate the 60th birthday of Cody's sweet mom.  They even secured a house sitter so Frank and I weren't responsible for their dog.  Still, there were quite a few things to cover at church.  Kristin and Cody contribute a LOT to each of our services.

Then it was almost our turn to leave for a week.  But before we could leave, there was a three day conference to attend.  The ministers from across our state come together annually to do business and celebrate all God has accomplished the preceding twelve months.

Business happens during the day and then there are celebratory services each evening.  Add to that the luncheons and moments of grabbing coffee with friends we seldom get to see.  Lots of our friends go out after the services, too.  I've NEVER been that person.  Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that my eyes start closing at 9:30 PM no matter how hard I try to stay awake.  Sigh!

If you read often, you will know the next report borders on being monumental. It involves packing. 

On Saturday afternoon before we were to leave on Monday, I said to Frank, "Let's pack!"  And without any assistance from Kristin (mostly because she was in another state) I selected my wardrobe and packed for two completely different trips - the conference and our vacation.  It took the better part of the afternoon and I was exhausted when I finally plopped onto the couch but . . . I did it!

(Cue the theme song from all the Rocky movies!!  The one they play when he runs up the steps and jumps around triumphantly! That's exactly how I felt.)

Fold into all that preparing one other little factoid.  My own precious mother-in-law of 40 years was getting ready to mark her 85th trip around the sun.  Eighty-five years definitely merited more than just a little celebrating, so we jumped into action.

First, we contacted Frank's two brothers to set up a family dinner party for either the night we drove into town or the next.  Then we contacted the director of the community where Mom lives to see if we could hold a surprise party for her and her friends.  They were happy to accommodate us.

Finally, we contacted the birthday girl and asked if she would come with us to Ocean Isle Beach for Memorial Day weekend.  We've asked many times through the years and she always turned us down.  But this time was her 85th birthday and she agreed to join us! 

We left FL at 5:30 AM on Thursday.  (After attending the conference Monday-Wednesday.)  We made it to Dunn in time to change clothes and head to the restaurant.  Both brothers, their wives and all their children were able to come.  We laughed and sang and snapped pictures and laughed some more.  Mom Loved It!

On Friday, we told her Frank wanted to take her to lunch - just the two of them.  That was the cover so I could stay at her apartment and start setting up the party.  (We had already stashed the cake, snacks and decorations in the complex office.)  When mother and son returned from their lunch date, Frank escorted her into the main lobby where her friends yelled surprise and sang Happy Birthday just as if they were all high schoolers.  Mom burst into tears.

They had brought remembrances and cards which Mom carefully opened; holding up each one for all to see; then thanking them profusely.  Frank and I scurried around snapping more pictures; serving cake and chips and soda and whatever else they needed.

Finally, we were on our way to the beach. 

Frank and I come back to Ocean Isle, NC almost every year.  We pioneered a church here between 1993-1999.  The church has grown and the twelve people we started with has become a congregation of over 300 now.  We developed friendships we've maintained for over 20 years and the current pastor graciously invites us to preach for the church when we can. We also preach two additional services, one on the beach and one for the OIB Chapel.  The Chapel then allows us to stay in their "parsonage" for the week.  It makes for a great get-away!

It was such fun having Mom with us those few days.  We introduced her to friends and took her on a tour showing how much the area has changed since we lived here. Her two big requests were to eat fresh seafood and visit the local Wal-mart.  She needed to see if they sell anything different from the one where she shops.

Mom wanted to head back home on Monday so Frank's brother met them halfway.  While Frank took her home, I lounged in the most lazy, languid way I think I've ever lounged.  I did absolutely nothing productive except read and eat for over five hours.  It was resplendent!

Well, reading back over this I guess it makes sense that I've only posted twice this month.  I do have a great devotional thought from this week that I'll try to get on-line tomorrow.   Thanks for checking in.

What about you?  Will you be celebrating any graduations or birthdays?  How does your family mark big occasions?  We'd love to hear about it in the comment section below:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Scheduling for Success

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day to EVERY Lady!

Even if you haven't physically birthed children, I dare say you've mentored; encouraged; corrected; instructed; listened . . . all key elements in motherhood.  So, I applaud you today!

Our Mother's Day celebration will take place tomorrow.  (You know we're famous for pushing holidays to whatever day best suits all the adult calendars in our world.)  But I want to give you a peek behind the curtain of our hilarious weekend.

Many of you also read Smithellaneous, the blog written by my dear friend and co-grandmother, Becky Smith.  (Her son married our daughter almost eight years ago.  We now gladly share three, soon-to-be four, practically perfect grandchildren.  The grands all look like Becky's family but we KNOW Meagan birthed them.)

If you read both blogs, you know that the Smiths have had a weekend filled with sensational celebrating, sighing, smiling and even a bit of singing.  We all rejoiced in the college graduation of Sarah.  Nathan's younger sister is a walking testimony that God can, and does, intervene in our lives.  Sarah is a cancer survivor (in spite of her prognosis of 20% survival chance.)  A true miracle, according to the medical world.

Naturally, this Miracle Girl could not graduate from college without her precious brother and sister present.  So, plans began being formulated weeks ago for Meagan and Nathan to fly up to the graduation - WITHOUT children.  (Do you hear the music quietly opening in the background?)

The Senior Smiths graciously provided the air transportation.  All the arrangements providing for three little human beings (who love their own schedules and own beds) to successfully be without either for five days, rested on Meagan and Nathan.   (Dramatic music builds slightly.)

Thankfully, all three of my girls understand lists and scheduling and do not despise either.  Please be reminded that Joy has four children ages 8, 6, 4 and 2.  She works as a nanny for two more children ages 4 and 2.  Kristin has Parker who just turned 1.  Meagan cares for him each day (along with her three who are 5, 4 and 10 months) while Kristin works.  I remind you of all this information because it will help your frame of reference as we move forward.

Meagan and Nathan carefully plotted out the schedule for the days they would be away.  They packed clothes.  Meagan shopped for groceries so her children would have foods they especially enjoy.  They organized the most comprehensive childcare chart of all time.  Then they got into their sedan at 3AM on Friday and drove to the airport; never once looking back.  (Key change in music to heighten anticipation.)

Noni and Papa went into action beginning at 4AM with the first bottle for Grayson.  Madi and Noah found their way to our bed around 4:30.  "Noni," Madi gazed at me with a totally flat expression. "We can't see the sun so Mama always says we have to go back to sleep but Noah won't let me sleep." 

Papa and I threw back the covers on our kingsize bed and invited both babies to crawl in beside us.  We soon realized a kingsize bed is not big enough for two adults and two squirmy, sharp-elbowed little people.  We left it with the boys and I carried Madi back to the air mattress in the guest room.  She fell asleep just before Grayson woke again.  Right after his diaper change and bottle, it was time to get Noah ready for school.  And that was the first three hours of our five-day adventure.  (Did you hear the full-on musical transition to Flight of the Bumblebee?)

It had been agreed on that Joy and John would take the lion's share of time with the Smith siblings as children do tend to stay calmer with their own tribe around them.  Wanting to give them a break before it really got intense, we covered lunch.  That sounds simple enough until you process that it meant taking five small people (ages 10 months to five years) to a ridiculously crowded Chick-Fila where they gladly eat real chicken and play on the playground.

  • We had to park on the other side of the world!  So, Noni took the girls and Grayson . . . daring either of the girls to let go of my hand during our treacherous navigation of hungry drivers trying to get to the drive-through window.  We arrived safely inside where I stepped right into line to order.
  • Papa wrangled the two lively boys and bags of additional periphenalia across the parking lot.  His task was to locate a table where we could all sit together.  He waited patiently for a family to vacate one and as he moved toward it, a lady loudly protested.  She wanted the table!  My southern gentleman husband couldn't fathom me standing to feed all those babies . . . so he ignored her objection and occupied the only open table anyway.  Good Man!
  • I managed to order two sandwiches, thirty chicken nuggets, accompanying fries and two large sprites to be divided into the sippy cups my daughters provided.  Grayson and I moved to the table of dispute.  (The girls had already joined Papa and the boys on the playground.)
  • Papa reported breaking up only one fight while we waited for the food.  Once it was delivered, we stayed very calm for the disbursement phase but found ourselves saying the strangest things like, "Boys, get down out of the window!"  "Eeeww, no!  Don't eat that, it already dropped on your chair."  "Get your finger out of your nose, Sweetheart."  "Is he choking or laughing?"  "Don't shove your cousin's head down like that."  "Sauce is for the nuggets not your fingers."  
  • Finally, it seemed everyone had taken in some measure of nourishment.  Let's face it, this was about giving Joy a break.  These kids weren't going to starve if they didn't eat all thirty nuggets and accompanying fries.  
  • We cleaned the disputed table; located socks and shoes; collected peripheral bags and meal leftovers.  Papa bought ice cream to be given out after naps.  (Yes, it was bribery.  I have no shame!) That's when we made the treacherous trek back across the parking lot.  We were separated for a time but rendevous'd at the van just before the rain could start.
We safely delivered all five Smith and Schreck Littles back to Joy's just in time for naps.  Papa and Noni wasted no time kissing everyone good-bye then "skeedadling" back to our own silent, little abode.  We promptly climbed into our king size bed and took a much deserved nap of our own.

We offered to help with bath time on Saturday night, as well.  Oh my, what a hysterical couple of hours THAT was! Kristin had to miss one of her scheduled times as Parker decided to surprise them with upchucking his bottle all over her mother's day outfit.  So, we switched out once more.

Meagan and Nathan will be on their way home shortly.  Their flight doesn't arrive in Orlando until almost 11PM. (The scheduling called for a sitter who could stay the night with them.)  So later tonight, they will come home to tiny faces sleeping peacefully in their own beds.   Tomorrow morning, they will be back on track and we won't do this again until Smith baby #4 is born in September.

Bottom line, the scheduling worked!  Sarah was celebrated royally.  Meagan and Nathan had a little time to focus on just themselves before becoming a family of six.  Their three were reminded how much they are loved by all their extended family.  And we got a few more snuggles while they're still small enough to willingly share them.  

I call it a SUCCESS all the way around!

How about you?  What has to happen in order for you to travel?  Are you a "schedule lover" or a "free flow" kind of planner?  We'd love to read your comments in the section below . . .

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Adding Value

I want to offer you an idea that can make you the most important person in the life of another.  This idea is one that will also cost you little or no effort; absolutely NO money; will not deplete your resources in any way.


Decide to become a person who Adds Value to everyone you encounter.

Adding Value to the life of another demonstrates several things:

  • You have enough self confidence to build up another.  (Self-focused people seldom feel confident.  They are always reaching out for a hand of affirmation instead of being able to offer one.)
  • You have battled the foe of "comparison thinking" and have won.  (We are all better together than we are alone.  Comparing ourselves to another is a waste of time and energy.  Develop team thinking and watch amazing ideas blossom.)
  • You are able to look beyond rough edges to see the potential in another.  (This simple act of calling others forward will impact them for their lifetime.  Remind them their past does not dictate their future.  Speak Life!)
  • You are a true leader with a genuine heart for others.  (Self-leadership is tough.  But when we take charge of our own thoughts and life to the point of promoting others, that is the ultimate test of leadership.  Genuine concern for others can become your new driving force.)
Adding value is not a term I've coined.  It is a commonly used term in the writings and speaking of famed leadership guru, John Maxwell.  (There.  I've given him credit.  He is also famous for saying some of his best ideas have come from other people.)

Maxwell tells a story of his aging father who himself was a popular speaker, pastor and coach for many years.  Rev. Maxwell had an episode with his health recently that left him with pronounced physical limitations.  John, his son, was concerned about his father's emotional state knowing this was a drastic change to navigate.  He went to visit his father as quickly as possible.

When he stepped into his dad's room, John had to wait a moment because Rev. Maxwell was talking on his cell phone.  It was apparent he was concluding a prayer for the other person.  After bidding them a fond farewell, the senior Maxwell raised the phone to his son.  

With a strong voice he declared, "John, I'm experiencing my most fruitful season of ministry!  I'm able to call and pray for anyone, anywhere in the world when the Lord brings them to my mind.  Isn't that WONDERFUL?!"

Now here are the facts about Rev. Maxwell:
  • He was no longer able to move around freely.
  • He had become dependent on others for care.
  • He struggled with limited energy.
  • He had opportunity/cause to be frustrated, disappointed and even bitter.
  • He chose to look beyond his "limitations" and find another way to help others. 
Now to me, that's the consummate leader!  When you can lead yourself through such a tough transition and still expect yourself to Add Value to others, you are the real deal!

I'm often surprised by the verbal tirades people throw around.  They sound extremely passionate and can even whip crowds into a frenzy with their words.  But when you take time to dissect their message, it comes back to being a call to action that will benefit the one speaking, not those listening.

Perhaps we would all do well to accept the challenge put to us through the example of Rev. Melvin Maxwell.  Intentionally shift the focus from ourselves and what we want or need.  Look instead at those around us.  

Slow down and take a good long look at what they may be needing.  Do you have the cloak of encouragement packed away in the trunk of your own life experience that can shelter them from the storm they're navigating?  What good is it doing safely packed away in your trunk?  Break it out.  Lavishly share what they most need - a word of HOPE.  

"I was where you are now.  You are making much better choices than I did at that time.  You're going to make it; I can see you have the courage to keep making good choices and to move yourself forward."

Perhaps they'll ask about your experience and perhaps they won't.  Regardless, they will leave the conversation feeling more hopeful; less defeated by life.  Why wouldn't we want to offer that to a fellow sojourner?  

Well, that's my idea for today.  Hope it's an encouragement to you.  Be the one who Adds Value.  I can promise you this, choosing this level of generosity will not be forgotten and it Will come back to you in double doses of JOY!

Have you experienced this first-hand?  We'd love to read your story in the comment section below.  Blessings!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Brand New Old

I think we may have started a brand new OLD tradition today.

Confusing?  Trust me, it was a bit confusing for us too.

Meagan had an abbreviated photo shoot to do this morning.  She had called earlier in the week to ask if Papa and Noni would like some bonding time with the Smith children?  We said, "Certainly!"  That's when I went to work pondering what our entertainment would be.

Taking them out for breakfast where a playground is involved makes the littles happy but it's Easter week.  I wanted something a bit more meaningful.  After checking with Papa (I don't attempt these things alone, friends!) we put a plan in place.

I bought Easter egg dye, some Jell-o, cake mix, coconut and other necessary items.  We contacted the Schreck tribe and moved forward in creating a memory.

The Smiths arrived around 9:30.  Papa and Noni were sitting on "Ready."  (Seems my brain was eager to get the day started and woke my body at 4:30 AM.  Sigh! One can do a LOT of getting ready in five hours.)

We had eggs and dye ready to roll.  Please bear in mind, all this was completely new to our super blond babies.  They were entranced by each step of the process.

We put eight eggs on to boil then started the Jell-o.  Yes, I do have an Easter mold of bright pink plastic.  "Happy Easter" is the top banner.  I store the mold right next to my personal set of Resurrection Eggs which are dispersed among all the children at our Easter meal.

Have I mentioned Christmas (which I love) takes a back seat to EASTER celebrating, in my heart?

While the Smiths stood side-by-side stirring the Jell-o, we talked about how things can change.  The Jell-o was a powder when we started, now it's liquid.  When it sits in the refrigerator the right amount of time, it will change again.  It will get all jiggley.

"God can change anything in our lives that He needs to, can't He?" Noni was fishing.

Noah took the bait, "Just like the Jell-o!  Right, Noni?"

Have I also mentioned these kids are brilliant?!

They watched wide-eyed as we poured the Jell-o into the mold. Leftovers went into parfait glasses for taste-testing later.  There was a bit of arguing and jostling to see who would open the refrigerator door.  Thank heaven I have two doors on my refrigerator and I quickly declared they each could open one.  Whew!

(In case you're wondering what Grayson was doing during all this excitement, he was with Papa.  A bottle was given and a nap started.  Hallelujah!)

Papa had a table set up in the garage for the egg dyeing portion of the morning.  We used a crayon to carefully identify each egg.  I wish you could have heard the squeals and seen the delight when the first colored egg was pulled out of the water.

"How did you DO that, Papa?" The process elevated him to the level of magician in their bright blue eyes.

"It's not hard when you know what you're doing." Frank answered.We talked about how God knows just what He is doing in each of our lives.  He loves us so much!

Their parents have done a great job making the true story of Easter understandable and personal.  Noah explained the cross sticker he was putting on his colored egg.  "That's where Jesus died to take away our sins, Noni."

Madi wasn't to be left out.  She made clear that the birdie sticker she was using could sing for Jesus, too.  Not bad for 3 1/2.

We listened and laughed and loved watching them discover this brand new process.  The same old process Noni and Papa used over 50 years ago with our own Easter eggs.  Then again about 25 years ago with our own children's eggs.

Smiths headed home and the Schrecks arrived around 11:30.  After peanut butter sandwiches, the fun started all over again.  One of their eggs cracked while boiling but took the dye just the same.  We talked about how important it is to remember that even when we make mistakes and things look messed up, God can still make something beautiful if we let Him.

The Schreck babies aren't known for moving slowly.  We had to explain this egg dyeing takes a long time.  It's a process you can't rush.  Abby started pacing herself by singing "Have patience!  Have patience!  Don't be in such a hurry...." 

Spencer and Zach were also quick to catch the illustration of the Jell-o changing from one thing to another.  They watched closely as Papa took the first round out of the mold.  "Look, Noni!  It's been three different things.  You would think that wasn't possible."

I jumped on that one, "Just like people thought it would be impossible for Jesus to rise from the dead.  But He did, didn't He?"

Zach responded first with huge eyes, "Jez came out tomb!  BOOM!"  (Being interpreted, "Jesus came out of the tomb with a loud Boom.")

The Schreck parents have also talked with all their children about the wonder of Easter and the hope it brings for each of us.  Thankful is a word they all understand with this season.

(Some of you may be wondering about Ava, the youngest.  We decided to wait and have her join us next year.  She enjoyed one on one time with Mom and Dad. )

Abby stayed after the boys went home and helped Noni bake a carrot cake.  She was thrilled when we used green food coloring on the coconut to make a "grass" topping for our basket cake.  Malted milk eggs crowned the basket and pictures showed her delight.

I'm now exhausted.  There are more traditions to come.  Family sunrise service.  Spoken blessings.  Breakfast of egg casserole and Pillsbury orange rolls.  (Keep it simple is my motto.)  An egg hunt in two rounds, younger and older.  Then Easter Sunday with all our church family.

Hopefully, you will share this sacred time with someone you love and appreciate.  If family is far away, remember that the One who came out of the tomb with a loud BOOM is as close as your whispered prayer.

Blessings for Your Easter!

We'd love to hear about your favorite Easter/Passover traditions.   Your celebration may spark an idea for someone else.  Stop by the comment box, won't you?