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 wayI 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.
I took part in an event this past Saturday that could only be described as:
Did I already say - Exhausting?
But that's not completely true. The event could also be described as:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?”
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
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 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
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.”
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
the wise son of King David, composed one of the earliest scriptures I
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
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!
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.