Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Christmas Chaos

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

Friday, November 27, 2020

Old Places; New Faces

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Too Much?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Smith Family

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

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

Date night - 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, Papa."

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, October 31, 2020

Spiritual PPE

Three years ago, I met a wonderful lady named Dyann Shepherd. She lives in California and has such a tender heart for others. This is her blog entitled: Personal Parables. Her perspective is so refreshing that I asked if I could share with you here. She graciously said, YES! Enjoy . . . 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Make Room

Last Monday we were a household consisting of one husband, one wife and one settled shih tzu.

This Monday we are a household consisting of Two husbands, Two wives, one settled  shih tzu and FOUR rambunctious, joy-peddlers aged seven, five, three and one.  The FL Smiths have temporarily moved in with us.  

You may be wondering, "What's Happening?!"  Well, how fortunate I am to have a blog where I can share with friends, family and those mildly interested. :-)

Meagan and Nathan sold their first little starter home in August; within 48 hours of listing.  Oh, happy day!  The date for closing was set far in the future - Oct. 21st.  Thus, the real estate agent explained they would have ample time to locate their new home and close on both properties the same day.  

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.  

Smiths did indeed find a home that will perfectly suit all their current needs.  It's a new build in an area that will be better located for them between school, work and church.  Being a new build means relief from the allergy issues that have plagued Meagan and Grayson in their older home.  No repair projects for Nathan.  A bedroom fit for one little princess growing up with three brothers.  And plenty of bike riding space for Noah.

One tiny glitch.  Their new house won't be ready for closing until mid to late November.  What to do?  Move in with Mom and Dad, of course. 

Yes, my head is still spinning a bit. But how thankful we are for the RV days that trained us.  If 400 square feet is big enough to house five adults and two dogs, 1500 square feet is MORE than enough to contain the Hawleys and Smiths for two months.

Noah came running out to my car on moving day, "Noni, guess what!  We're coming to have a LOT of sleep over nights with you and Papa!"  His bright eyes and beaming smile told the full story.  What could possibly be better than LOTS of sleep over nights with Noni and Papa?  Nothing, sweet boy.  Nothing!

Fortunately, Frank and I have spent this year moving toward a more minimalist household anyway.  Now all of the extra spaces we had opened up have become the very nooks and crannies into which we are stuffing the necessities for a family of six.  

In addition to that, Meagan is a brilliant mom.  She knows what constitutes a necessary item and what can be stored for two months.  Bunk beds and storage cubes were set up in the office/playroom.  Two cribs were configured into the decor of the guest room.  All decorations that tend to attract little hands have been put away or out of reach.  

Boxes are still everywhere and I literally climbed over two beds in order to reach my coffee maker Saturday morning.  But we're in!  We're all in and have slept two nights under the same roof.  

Frank and I typically drink our first coffee of the week sitting on the screened porch softly commenting on the weekend and the lovely dawn.  Gracie squeezes between us on the love seat and drifts back to sleep.  

Today, it was quite different.  

Noah (7) came out first.  Then Madi (5) found us.  They are both incredibly verbal children.  They also are certain that Noni and Papa want to hear each of the thoughts pinging around in their beautiful blond heads. Andrew (1) only wanted to snuggle.  Meagan found us all five squeezed onto the love seat with Madi and Noah at least taking turns while talking ninety to nothing.  Andrew was dozing and Gracie located an uninhabited corner where she could hide.  

Two adorable items will make you smile, too.

Madi: "So, Noni they took both cars and combined them into one that can fly."  (Note:  Noni totally missed the part of the story explaining who "they" are and why one of the cars had wings.  But backing tracking with questions is NOT a smart tactic, I 've learned.)  "Then when they got done, they. . .  (long pause while the precious princess pondered what could possibly be the opposite action of combining.)   . . . they un-binded them and they went back to normal."  Brilliant, don't you think?

Noah: "Noni, look at this tassel on your pillow.  It's a mustache.  Oh wait, now it's a rocket.  Now it's a bell; a doll wig; a flower; a firework; a....."  The list went on for about three minutes.  I was amazed at the imagination of this kid as he just kept turning and re-shaping the tassel to show me all the things his seven year old eyes could envision.  Brilliant, don't you think?

I can't do a caption for this and I HOPE it's the proper size.  (Still learning the new format.  Sigh!)  Frank and I try to do birthday lunch with each child but we had missed Zach and Madi's special days this summer.  So, we took all three on Saturday.  What a full, fun "lunch event" it was.

Frank knew that if we were going to get the Christmas village up this year, it had to happen before the Smiths moved in with us.  So Spencer came to lend a helping hand.  We snapped this picture of our very own "Elf on the Shelf."  

 Here's a picture of the finished product.

Meagan ran errands for a while so I could enjoy a quiet morning and get this post online.  The call just came that they are heading back this way for lunch and afternoon naps.  Better get up and get moving.  

One more thought in closing.  I mentioned that Frank and I had already been making room in our home although we had no idea why it would be needed.  If we had not done the work to make room, we wouldn't have been able to open our arms and have them filled with all this sweet love for the next six weeks.

Has this post brought a nudge to your own heart about making room?  Maybe it's your home and maybe it's your heart.  Let me encourage you, don't miss the blessing that you'll be able to embrace once the room has been made.  Just a thought for you today . . .

Blessings for your week!

How about you?  Have you shared your home with another family at some point?  What tips of wisdom can you offer?  Where would it do you good to make room?  Please share with us in the comment section.

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Tale of Two Neighbors

[Warning: Rather long post. Sweet story. Likely to cause some misty-eyed reading.  Grab a tissue, a cup of tea and join me, won't you?]

In 1981, two frightened young adults moved to the mountains of NC.  Their assignment was to pastor a little church of thirty settled souls tucked away in a valley called Hazelwood.  (Don't bother looking it up.  The town was eventually absorbed by the larger adjacent town when the last "old timer" passed away.)

The second Monday morning after their arrival, the pastor took his youthful zeal and single-handedly began a door-to-door campaign.  He was intent on letting the neighbors know this church was ready to meet their spiritual needs.  He returned home at lunch time with shoulders slumped and heart heavy having knocked on every door in the surrounding few blocks.  

Again and again he had encountered one of two responses.  "That's a church?!  We thought it was a masonic lodge."  Or "Yeah, that's the church where the pastor ran away with the secretary."  Never mind the huge cross on the front of the building.  Never mind that the aforementioned incident had occured 25 years before.  

But the young couple knew how to encourage themselves in the Lord. Sunday after Sunday they trudged on.  They sang the ten songs most comfortable for the inexperienced pianist. They coaxed the dying furnace into heating the building one more time.  They greeted; hosted; sang; preached; cleaned and smiled at even the most surly of members.  Week after week they worked to build relationships with the people entrusted to their care.  

Most of the congregation were at or near retirement age and the few younger women found the pastor's wife a bit odd.  She was a little too bubbly for their liking.  They deemed it unnecessary to include her in their circle of friendship.  So she became more and more isolated.  

The couple had been given the use of a rather ramshackle home on the church property.  To their left lived a single lady who frequently complained about the barking of their little dog.  Mrs. Sally Thomas* was very involved with her own church.  She made perfectly clear that she strongly disagreed with the doctrine held by the church the young couple pastored.  She was a formidable lady, indeed.

One morning an unexpected knock came on the front door.  An older lady with sparkling blue eyes and curly red hair met the pastor's wife with a smile.

"Hello," her voice was gentle and her accent told of having lived in that area her entire life.  "My name is Nell Cagle.  I live in that house across the road.  I've baked an apple pie for you."  She brushed off the appreciation of the young girl and declined her offer to come in for a visit.  After only a few more sentences exchanged, Mrs. Cagle turned and walked back across the street.

Over the next few months, Mrs. Cagle would periodically reach out to the couple.  "I've made beans and greens for dinner.  Would you like some?"  "My son came for a visit and we couldn't eat all this cake.  I brought you a couple of pieces."  When she found out that peach was the young pastor's favorite fruit, she suddenly began making peach preserves, peach pies and of course, peach cobbler.

The couple became as comfortable in her tiny living room and kitchen as they were in the homes of their own parents who lived hundreds of miles away.  Mrs. Cagle was a poet and an excellent seamstress.  Her creative handiwork was the livelihood for the dear lady who had been abandoned by her husband and left to raise a son alone.  Despite all the pain of her life, she held tightly to her joy and peace.

Eventually, the young pastors received an answer to their prayers for a child.  The wife hurried across the street to tell Mrs. Cagle their happy news.  The next week, their neighbor was on the porch with a big white box wrapped with a huge bow.  The wife carefully unwrapped the box.  She squealed with delight when she pulled out a stunning, custom made maternity dress.  Crafted of light blue fabric sprinkled with delicate white flowers, it fit her perfectly of course.

When the pastors finally brought home their baby girl from the hospital, Mrs. Cagle was one of the first invited to hold her.  She beamed with delighted as though the baby was her own grandchild. And of course, she brought over dinner.

The couple pastored that church for nineteen months then moved on to another assignment.  Saying farewell to Mrs. Cagle brought more tears than any other farewell with their move.  Through the years when they would go back to that little valley, they made it a point to stop and visit with Mrs. Cagle.  She always had a warm hug and a big smile for them.

Just this week, the couple returned to visit Mrs. Cagle.  It had been five years since they had been in that area.  A new neighbor gave them the sad news that she had passed away two years ago.  Frank and I got back into our car and swiped at the tears stinging our eyes.  

Yes, we were the couple who moved to Hazelwood as 22 and 24 year olds.  Of all the relationships we worked so hard to develop and maintain, it was dear Mrs. Cagle we stayed in touch with the longest.  She was the one person who reached out first, never asked for anything and always offered a word of encouragement.

I never again saw Mrs. Thomas* after we moved away.  But my sense of loss at the passing of Nell Cagle was deep, genuine.  Few people in the world ever knew her name.  She viewed herself as rather small and insignificant.  But her kindness impacted us for a lifetime. 

Perhaps you are one of many reading this post who view yourself as Mrs. Cagle saw herself.  Unknown, insignificant.  Maybe you wonder if your life and contributions make a difference at all. 

The answer is, YES!  You are probably impacting people in ways you could never fathom.  Keep caring.  Keep offering friendship and kindness. Keep looking for the best in others.  You will find what you look for and you will reap what you sow.

Mrs. Cagle could never have imagined her story encouraging more than a few dozen people at best. But here she is still impacting people even after her passing.  All because she wanted to be a good neighbor.  

May I encourage you to stop waiting to do something grand.  Choose to do the little things well and watch what God will do with your efforts.  

Did Mrs. Cagle's story resonate with you?  Do you have a similar story?  We'd love to read about it in the comment section.

*Sally Thomas in not her real name.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

Ungrateful Grouch

 (Warning: Honest look behind the facade.)


I have BEAUTIFUL pictures to show you of the reno work my husband has done on our kitchen.  Unfortunately, they've foisted a new format on me for the blogging site I use.  I'm totally dumbfounded as to how to add the pictures with this new set up.  (Deep Sigh of DIS-contentment.)  Back to school I go.

But since I've already launched into this confession, I might as well complete it; even though helpful pictures aren't unavailable at the moment.

The work we've been doing for almost three months is nearly complete.  (Cue cheering friends accompanied by loud marching band music and poppers filled with confetti.)  I could not be happier with the outcome.

Frank even tackled the installation for the decorative tile I had chosen as a border.  He did a Great job! Because the extra cabinets are on the opposite wall, I wanted something to tie the room together.  This bit of tile does it beautifully, in my opinion.  (And since I'm the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, that opinion matters very much.)

In the middle of it all, we've tried for several weeks to take a day trip to the beach.  This FL native needs to dip her toes in the water, walk on the sand and smell salt air occasionally to feel rejuvenated.  But each time we've had it planned, a complication has come up or we've opted to work on the next phase of the kitchen, instead.  

This actually ended up being a good choice because we finished the bulk of it just in time to welcome surprise guests this past weekend. Whew, was I ever thankful.

The countertops are spectacular.  The new lighting over my sink and under the additional cabinets is spectacular.  We have to demonstrate the lighting to each newcomer.  That's when you know someone is genuinely excited about a renovation project.  The dimmer switches provide lovely ambiance and make me feel "grown up."

So, how can someone with so much "marvelousness" that they've waited/saved/worked years to experience be even remotely close to acting like an ungrateful grouch?  I was wondering the same thing when I realized my attitude this morning was moving in that direction.

Let me explain.  I've always been a frugal person.  Some might even call me a tightwad. But that's okay because it's been a blessing with the life-style we've chosen to lead.  

Our life is full of amazing people and miraculous provision and unbelievable opportunities.  (Notice that list does not mention huge financial prosperity.)  That's why it's good I've always been frugal.  God has graced me to stay content with the things we COULD have not bothering to compare or focus on things I knew were only wants and not necessities.

One of my favorite scriptures has long been, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." I Timothy 6:6.

However, it seems we all get tempted in areas of life we think we've mastered. A caution to the wise here.  I hit just such a temptation this very weekend.

Missionary friends were going to meet me for lunch in a different part of town.  Being unfamiliar with the area and not wanting to be late, I left early and actually arrived with 30 extra minutes.  What to do?

I had noticed signs for an estate sale going on near there so I decided to run in for a minute.  Estate sales are always interesting and I hoped to snag a piece of my elusive Willow Ware dishes.  

Imagine my shock and awe upon walking into the massive home that was being sold for more than five times the value of my own.  It was an architectural masterpiece everywhere you looked.  The architect had carefully created each room to enjoy a view of the lake. I tried not to leave my mouth hanging open.

The entryway led directly to a living room area with large pieces of surprisingly comfortable furniture.  The baby grand player piano provided joyous renditions of Christmas music to boost each buyers' mood.  

My breath caught in my throat when I realized the living room furniture, which looked like furniture Frank and I like, did not have a sold sticker.  In fact, it was reasonably priced for the quality and condition of the three pieces offered.

Suddenly, I WANTED that living room set.

I could see it gracing my own living room.  I could envision our children and grandchildren sprawled out on the pieces laughing, talking.  Of course, the music made it easy to imagine Christmas morning with presents and wrapping paper and people scattered everywhere. 

Now, I NEEDED that living room set.

It was time to meet my friends so I dashed out to my car but not before snapping a couple of pictures to show Frank.  I also asked if anyone else had enquired about the set.  The salesman said some were looking but there were no holds.     

I managed to calmly enjoy my time with our friends.  Then connected with Frank.  

We got back to the sale as soon as we could go together.  You already know the next part - yes, it had sold.  Yes, I was disappointed.

Frank chatted with the salesman (because that's what Frank does) and discovered the sale was truly sad.  The couple who built the home and moved in with such joy were divorcing and moving to different cities.  So sad.

The rest of the story hit this morning.  I had slept well and woke at my normal time.  But even after breakfast and my devotion time, I felt agitated. I was even short with Frank as he was getting ready to leave for the office.

"Sheri!  What is wrong with you?!" I wondered aloud to Gracie.  She had no helpful response.  I pondered my attitude while starting the laundry and cleaning the shower.  

Suddenly it dawned on me.  I was in a foul mood for no other reason than that I had WANTED that living room set and it was Gone!  

Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit this to you, Dear Reader.  But it's never a good thing to put ourselves or another on any sort of pedestal.  We ALWAYS fall.  And this morning, I took a royal tumble.

This is embarrassing for several reasons:

    1. I already have so many new elements to be thankful for in my kitchen.

    2. The last sermon I preached highlighted the importance of Appreciation.

    3. The living room set was a THING, not a person to merit that much emotional energy.

    4. It totally surprised me that I could be so greedy.  (We're usually the last to know about character       flaws, aren't we?)

Ah, Friend.  If you're shocked or appalled, don't be.  I'm working through the journey just like everyone else.  And for those who would offer excuses on my behalf, please don't.  I know how dangerous a small root of greed (or any other vice) can be if not dealt with quickly and harshly.  

So, I'm calling myself out right here on Embrace the Grace.  I started the day as a Greedy Grouch - because of a couch.  (I couldn't resist the rhyme.  It was sitting right there.)  With confession and prayer, I hope to end the day differently.

Thank you for reading to the end.  Thank you for loving me in spite of myself.  Thank you for being an honest sojourner right along with me.  

Blessings for your week!

How about you?  Any recent realizations about your own heart that surprised you?  We'd love to pray for one another and find encouragement together if you want to share in the comment section.