Monday, October 31, 2022

What Do YOU Love?

What do you really love to do?

It's a question we ask young adults often.  We follow up with advice like, "Find a way to do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."  Which sounds like wisdom but isn't completely accurate.  

Even what we love doing will have its days that require disciplined focus and consistency.  Some days will push us to the limit because we love our work.  It's just the reality of life.

Perhaps we should not reserve that question for addressing only young adults.  Someone recently asked me, "Sheri, what is it that you really love doing?"   Without a moment's hesitation I answered, "Encouraging!" 

Whether it's teaching a class, listening to a younger minister, being excited with a grandchild or writing.  I find that my own heart is more satisfied when I am able to encourage someone else.

This past month I had a great time teaching a connect group at our church. It was a mixed group of men and women: some married and some single.  The topic was the wonderful book by Gary Chapman entitled, The Five Love Languages. 

Dr. Chapman takes the complicated subject of how to best communicate love and appreciation; making it a more manageable objective.  I spent long hours preparing for my fifty minute class.  There were handouts to prepare and material I needed to study in more detail if I was going to explain it clearly.  

And of course, it would be impossible to cover all the fantastic material in three short classes.  So, I had to carefully determine what to  highlight and what to exclude.  In the end, we laughed together, cried a bit and learned a lot about ourselves and those around us.  

For me, the win came when several in the group described how it encouraged them to work harder at the important relationships in their lives.  SCORE!

Another friend asked me today, "Why haven't you been writing as much?  I love reading your blog, it always encourages me."  So, here I am.  working on the "consistency" part of what I love doing.

It's not a lengthy, earth-shaking treatise.  But hopefully it will cause you to stop for just a moment and ask yourself, "What do I love doing?"  If you've gotten slack with discipline or focus, let me encourage you - get to it.  

Someone is waiting for the gift you bring to the world.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Olivia Rae is Here!

At long last, I'm able to share pictures with you of our newest princess - Olivia Rae McGhee!!

Is she not absolutely beautiful?  As you can see, her big brother (Parker) is totally smitten with his baby.  At four years of age, he takes her wailing and constant need for attention in stride.  On Tuesday, Olivia will be six weeks old.  We can hardly believe it but time goes quickly, doesn't it?

Kristin explained that she has delayed sharing pictures online because life has been a bit more than she anticipated.  Every mom with more than one child certainly understands!

Here are a couple of extra pictures just because you've waited so patiently.  

Don't you just want to squish those cheeks????

Photo Credit: Smithplicity  aka Auntie Meagan.  Yes, Meagan did this family shoot for them and managed to get amazing, creative pictures in under an hour.  Beautiful work from a mommie of four who knows, "You better grab all the pictures you can while the babies are happy and smiling because that's a small window!"  

Olivia does have a breathing issue they are trying to identify.  Insurance hasn't made it easy for them to get her to a specialist but they're pushing forward and hope to have some answers soon.  

In addition to Olivia's arrival, many of you have been aware of Joy's journey with thyroid cancer.  Her surgery was this past Friday and the surgeon believes all went well although they did remove extra lymph nodes that were questionable.   When praying for her please pray the recovery and balancing of her medications will go smoothly.  Please also pray for their precious little family who are walking through this illness together.

More Smithplicity Photos

So, I couldn't do an entire post of grand baby pictures and not include my Smiths.  So here are a couple of candid shots from a recent visit we made to Sams.  As you can see, the creative gene is strong in the Smith children.  

Are you bored by shopping with Noni?  Make up your own game called "New Ways to Ride in the Cart!"

As summer comes to a close and children start back to school, may I encourage you to "see" your children and grands?  It was my own little girls riding in the cart just yesterday.  Now, they're all grown up with families and trials of their own.  

I'm so thankful for the moments I have tucked away in my heart.  Little photos in my memory book that make me smile every time I thumb through the album.  I don't remember who said this but it surely was true for me while raising children.  "The days are long and the years are short; take it all in."

Blessings for your holiday weekend.  And thanks for celebrating Olivia's arrival with us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

My Hope and Help

I told you we have a lot of birthdays in July - now add one more.  Olivia Rae made her debut on the morning of July 12th.  And she is absolutely PERFECT!  Thank the Lord.  (Mommie is recovering well.  Now, we pray for extra sleep for them both.)  No close up pictures just yet.  

This month we've celebrated John, Zachariah, Grayson, Noni, Olivia's birth and the wedding anniversary for Nathan and Meagan.  Eleven years they've been married; time is flying.  

On my birthday, the girls brought all ten of the practically perfect grands to sing Happy Birthday to Noni.  They also brought peanut butter jelly sandwiches, chips and juice which gave us the opportunity to share a gourmet lunch together.  

Are those precious faces, or what?!  Yes, you are correct - that question was facetious.  

Madi and Ava are hugging.  Noah is holding Andrew with Zach squeezed into the open spot.  I'm holding Olivia and her brother, Parker, is close at hand to help. Then comes Abby beside Spencer who's holding Grayson.  Of course there had to be balloons because no child can imagine celebrating a birthday (even when you're "old") without balloons.  

The most contented smile is Noni's!

I wish we were only busy marking celebrations but everyone we know has life happening, don't they?  The past two months have been unusually tough for our family.  We've been introduced to severe illnesses, we've had frightening moments of loss, shocking news and moments that have literally taken our breath away.  

If you knew the details, you would know I'm not exaggerating one little bit.  This is a tough time.

In the middle of all the upheaval, I found myself holding my breath - often.  My watch would vibrate and I would glance down to find this message, "Even a few moments of deep breathing can help your outlook."  Right!  I would gladly take deep breaths if I wasn't subconsciously waiting for the next bit of bad news.

Still, there was a church to care for and meetings to attend and deadlines to meet.  So, one deep breath leads to another then another and we find ourselves able to move.  Of course, praying is another almost subconscious action as well.  But it never hurts to be reminded.

So, when Frank asked me to share the sermon this past Sunday, it was easy for me to prepare the message from the very scriptures and truths that have been carrying me.  The simple title was My Hope and My Help.  

John told about the Holy Spirit who is our helper or in Greek, our "parakletos." (Jn. 16:7) And I found this example that explains the term John used.

It seems Greek soldiers (in the time of Christ) were sent out to battle in pairs.  That way, when the enemy attacked them they could stand back to back and cover each other's blind side.  Your battle partner was called your "paraclete."  

By choosing that word, John was explaining to his readers that the precious Spirit of God wants to cover our blind spots.  He wants to be our helper in tough times; all we have to do is ask.  Could you use some of that help today, like me?!

I also shared from Paul's writings that "... this hope [in God] will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us..."  (Romans 5:5)

That's comfort I can lean into during this time of feeling overwhelmed!

Frank and I pray almost daily that our children and grandchildren will follow Christ every day they have breath.  Maybe another birthday is the perfect time to remind ourselves that He wants to partner with us on this life journey.  He wants to be our Hope and our Help.  I think I'll let Him - how about you?

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?  Do you have a month with multiple celebrations?  Would you share one of your favorite comfort scriptures with us?  Thanks for leaving comments, they're such an encouragement.  

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Little Moments

Today is a special day for our family. . . Abigail Grace Schreck turns TEN years old.  She is our first granddaughter, one smart cookie, beautiful like her mommie, a nurturer, an honor student, a worshipper, a baker and a great soccer player.    

Here is a picture of the sour cream pound cake Abby and I baked recently.  My mom (an excellent cook) made these often and Abby was excited to have that connection.  It did taste delicious, if you're wondering.

The Schrecks and Smiths do birthday parties for the major birthdays: one, five, ten and so on.  Otherwise, they explained to us, we would be celebrating a birthday every other month.  (They have four children each and when Olivia is born, we will be a family of Eighteen people!  Yes, Christmas and the other celebrations are indeed loud, chaotic, amazing events for us.)

We'll be celebrating Abigail's birthday in grand fashion on Saturday evening.  She asked that the decorations be cat related as she's trying to talk her parents into giving her a kitten.  Unfortunately, two-thirds of our family are allergic to cats so that probably won't be happening.

This picture is from our birthday lunch with her when she was five.  She had her choice of any restaurant in town and she chose Chick-Fil-A.  They still had a playground open at the time and when you combine that with a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from DQ, you come out looking like amazing grandparents. 

Looking back like this is good for us all because it reminds us of the importance of little steps.  There's nothing so big about taking two hours to bake a sour cream pound cake.  It takes even less planning to share lunch utilizing a playground and some ice cream for entertainment.  But Abby enjoyed both little adventures.

I've met lots of people who think life is all about big, grand moments.  The trip to Disney.  The cruise to the Bahamas.  The new car at sixteen.

Those are great. Nothing wrong with them if you can afford them.  But I think many people who are waiting for the big moments run the risk of missing life that's also found in the small things.   

Abby is blessed because both sets of her grandparents value the small moment investments.  She talks with her grandparents in NY almost every week.  And little packages arrive in the mail frequently.  When Grandma and Grandpa visit, the children are lavished with undivided attention.  They know they are loved.

This final picture is from Abby's first birthday.  I remember taking this picture (and the half dozen others I also took trying to get one good picture with her holding still and looking at the camera. LOL)

The point is, it feels like I took this picture yesterday.  Time flies, friends.  Scroll back up and see how quickly.  Same sweet eyes.  Same infectious smile.  But 3,650 days have passed between them.  

We have shared a few big moments but more important have been the dozens of little ones.  Little moments listening to her jabber on about things I didn't really understand.  Little moments making eye contact that communicated, "You are important!"  Little moments singing "Baby Shark" together at the top of our lungs.  Little moments sitting beside one another, squeezing her hand before she ran off to play with her cousins.   

Those moments may not seem like much when they happen but I assure you, life is richest when woven of countless little threads that offer strength and warmth against the cold, harsh days.  

Make time for the little moments, friends.  Those are the greatest gifts you can offer anyone you love.  

Happy Birthday, Abby Grace!  May the your love for the Heavenly Father grow even stronger during the next decade of your life.  Noni and Papa pray so daily and love you more than we have words to tell.

How about you?  Do you only mark the main birthdays?  How many grandchildren do you have?  Can you share one great "little moment" idea that would help the rest of us?  Please leave your comment in the section below.  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

One Friend

Sometimes your next step forward comes through a major life change.  Something big and jolting takes place then you are forced to make a step of transition.  

Sometimes the next step forward comes as a result of a gentle nudge from someone who cares.  that friendly nudge arrived in my email yesterday from Becky, "Just want you to know someone out here is missing your blog." 

That one sentence from just one friend was the encouragement I needed to get back in gear and make a post happen.  Today!

This picture was taken just about two hours ago.  Frank has had health issues since the first of the year and today should be the final procedure moving him back to full health.  Can you see the smile behind our masks?

We are grateful for nurses and doctors who are incredibly knowledgeable.  But on a day like this, we’re also thankful for those who remember that their workplace is intimidating, cold, overwhelming and downright frightening for the rest of us.

Gloria, Kelly, Stephanie and Dr. Brown filled the bill beautifully for us this morning.  Patiently answering questions, meeting needs, anticipating requests and offering genuine kindness.  Thanks to all of you in the medical field who read Embrace the Grace.

This picture is also part of the reason I haven’t been writing.  Our family has been experiencing an unusual amount of medical issues.  (Of course, when your “family” is comprised of eight adults -one of which is pregnant- and nine little people, some ER and doctor visits are to be expected, I guess.) But in six months we’ve had three surgeries, two biopsies, multiple MRI’s and CAT scans and another surgery on the horizon.  That really is a lot for a family that’s typically healthy.

Today I want to focus on the importance of ONE.  

Many of you may feel like I have lately, a bit overwhelmed by life.  Pretty sure I have nothing of value to offer anyone else at this moment.  Thinking my contribution isn’t being missed by anyone and that it’s so much easier to move to the back of the room and sit silently.

But all it took for me to shake my head and re-engage was one email from one friend saying, “Those thoughts are not true. I miss you!”  

Are you supposed to be the ONE in the life of your friend today?

May I encourage you, don’t keep sitting silently in the back of the room.  Shake yourself.  Send that email; write that card; make that call.  Someone needs your ONE word of encouragement and you don’t even know how badly they need it.

Be the ONE in the life of another.  I can promise that every seed of encouragement you sow into the heart of someone else, will eventually bloom and come back to supply you when you need it most.  

The wisest man who ever lived (Solomon) put it this way, "The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25 NLT

Thanks, Becky.  You’re ONE refreshing friend!

Monday, May 9, 2022

A True Lady!

Happy Mother's Day to every mom, grandma, step-mom, mother-in-law and spiritual mother stopping by to read today! I hope you felt loved on Mother's Day whether it was a homemade card or the finest Hallmark can offer - each is special when given from the heart. 

So thankful for these three beauties who made me a mom.

As you can see, Kristin is very pregnant with Olivia who is due to arrive somewhere around July 16th.  Joy has been on a health challenge with John and is looking very slim.  Meagan and I find ourselves somewhere in the middle.  Such fun and such a gift to all be in church together yesterday.  I do not take that for granted.

Here are the pictures we grabbed of the second generation.  (Parker wasn't able to be with us for these.) In this picture, we're all buttoned up and looking at the camera.  Angelic smiles wreath each face.  Are they not so precious?!

And here you have the more realistic version of our tribe trying to gather for any family photo.

Look familiar to any of you?  I thought it might. 

We've found that if we promise a silly picture and actually take it, they are more likely to work together helping us get one good shot that we had envisioned when we started this mammoth task.  Yes, it is like herding cats but we're up for the challenge.

I had the privilege of bringing the message yesterday which is always one of my favorite times to preach.  Women need encouragement as they do their best to follow Christ in today's world.  It's important that we watch for opportunities to encourage one another.

How well I remember my own days as a young mom with three little girls looking to me for direction.  Each  day seemed to have major struggles or difficulty and it was up to me to frame our life in a positive way.  (I recently heard someone say we can't always choose our feelings but we can choose our words, so let them be encouraging.)

Here's a special Olan Mills presentation of our three angels during the time I'm talking about.  This would have been around 1989.  No wonder our grandchildren are so adorable, right?!

One of the scriptures I held to as a young mom was Psalm 121: 1-2.  David was experiencing difficulty as he wrote this psalm. He describes for us how he goes out and looks up at the hills around him.  He then ponders if this is where his help comes from?  He answers his own question with determination, "My help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth."

When our girls were little, we lived in the mountains and I would often follow David's example literally.  I would go outside and look at those massive mountains.  I would think about how secure and unmovable they were.  Then I would say out loud for my own heart to hear, "My help is even greater than these mountains. My help comes from the Lord who made these mountains!"

Somehow saying it out loud always helped recalibrate my soul and gave me strength to address whatever that day might hold.  (Feel free to try this method wherever you find yourself today.)

My message of encouragement to the congregation yesterday was simple.  Based on the scripture, my title was "Look Up, Dear Lady.  Look Up!"  I took the word lady and made an acrostic elaborating on each point.  

Dear Lady, you are:

LOVED more than you know.

ADDING VALUE to the world around you. 

DAUGHTER of the KING and your


I wrapped it up by reminding the ladies how important it is for us to spend time with the Lord.  We can talk to Him about the struggles we face and we should express gratitude for the joys we experience.  

At the end, we all met at the altar for a time of doing just that.  The men of the congregation gathered behind the ladies and prayed blessing for them all.  It was a special service, indeed.

I want to close with this picture.

This is one of the last pictures we had made of my Grandma Miller and her precious Kissy.  Grandma was born in Liberty, Indiana on May 7, 1902.  That means this year was the 120th anniversary of her birth.  There are a hundred stories I could tell about this woman who impacted my life.  But the main thing I want you to know is that she exemplified, to me, all the qualities of a true lady.  

Her example is one I follow even now as I'm trying to create memories with my grandchildren.  And who knows?  Maybe in another 60-70 years one of them will be able to show a picture of me and honestly say, "My Noni was a True Lady."  Thanks what I'm hoping for, anyway.  

How did you mark Mother's Day?  Was your life greatly impacted by a grandmother?  Are you blessed to still have your mother living?  We'd love to read your comments in the box below.     



Saturday, April 30, 2022

Finding Gold

Frank and I just returned from a wonderful week at a pastor's retreat sponsored by the Billy Graham Training Center.  It was just what the doctor ordered after Easter.

I wanted to get another post on for April so I reached back a few years for this beauty.  It inspired me again as I read it.  Certainly hope you find it encouraging, too.

One rainy Saturday afternoon, Mom and I were watching a western movie on TV.  At the time, I was just a teenager.  Halfway through, the hero of the movie was being encouraged to abandon the mine where he and others had been working.  "It's hopeless," said the villain.  "Give it up!  You'll never find anything anyway."

At that very moment an old man, weathered and leathery-looking, came hobbling out of the saloon. He had heard the conversation and knew it looked hopeless but he also knew that with hard work, success was possible.  (Apparently, the villain just wanted the mine for himself.)  The old fella declared boldly in a pinched, uneducated voice, "Thar's gold in them thar hills!!"  His statement (so funny sounding) immediately became a by-line for Mom and me.

If I faced something that required more work than I originally thought but the reward would be great, Mom would look at me, wink one eye and in her best imitation of the old miner she'd say, "Thar's gold in them thar hills, Sheri!"  (In other words, keep working.  Don't give up now!)

If I found Mom quietly crying because of some disappointment, I would slide up beside her, give her my best daughter hug and whisper, "Thar's gold in them thar hills, Mama."  She would start chuckling even if the tears weren't quite finished.  "Well I sure hope I find some soon," she often answered.

I hadn't thought of our little inside joke for a long time, until this morning when I struck gold.  I'll have to back up a bit to explain.

We purchased our current home eleven years ago.  We had just become pastors in FL after serving as evangelists for six years.  During the evangelist years, we lived in a forty-foot RV.  I can assure you that living as a family in 400 square feet helps you know what household items are important and which ones you can live without.

Moving from the RV back to a full-sized home left me with quite a few vacant spots.  We needed everything from beds and bedding, to living room furniture, lamps, decorations, even a shower curtain.  Needless to say, I was constantly on the look out for inexpensive ways to fill our household.

The young man we bought our house from was a bachelor engaged to be married.  The house had been, for him, simply an investment so his furnishings were rather sparse as well.  At the walk through, I noticed a lovely set of dishes he had just sitting against one wall.

"Those are beautiful," I commented.

"One of the ladies in my church gave them to me," he said.  "We won't use them.  Would you like them?"

Although dishes weren't actually on my list, I really liked the look of them and answered, "Sure!"  It was a complete service for eight and FREE.  If I didn't use them, one of the girls probably would. The dishes promptly went into storage in the garage.

Fast forward to my season of purging and reorganizing - that would be now.  The dishes I've been using for everyday ware are lovely but after five years of constant service they were showing their age.  I decided to sell them in the yard sale we had and start looking around for a replacement set.

That's when I remembered the dishes in storage.

They would do just fine as my temporary set.  Only problem, our family has grown to 13 and we would need more dishes.  I went online to search out where to pick up a few more pieces.  That's when the discovery was made.

The simple blue and white plates, cups, saucers and such that had been sitting in dark storage bins for eleven years are actually a fine grade of willow ware made in Stafforshire, England.  It's known as the Winston Churchill collection.

The meat platter alone cost over $300!  I was in total shock.  I had no idea such exquisite and expensive beauty had been hidden away in my garage, serving no one all these years.

This morning as I carefully unpacked, washed and shelved the Winston Churchill collection,  my mind whirled with so many unanswered thoughts:

  • Who was the original owner?
  • Was it a set slowly collected or perhaps wedding dishes for some young bride?
  • Were they often used or seldom?
  • Was there laughter around their table, too?
  • Why did the lady give them to the bachelor?
  • Was no one in her family interested in them?
  • Did no one appreciate their value?
As always, the Lord used my ponderings to whisper a truth to my heart.  "Sheri, there are pockets of gold hidden all around you.  You must have eyes to see it and a willingness to work at mining the gold.  Appreciate what I've placed in your hands."

For me, that translates to:
  • Watch for the people around you who are pure gold.  They may be quiet and you may have to mine their gifts.  But appreciate them; see them!
  • Watch for the moments of gold.  A pat on the face from tiny jam hands.  A tender kiss good-bye.  A hug from a true friend.  A casual, "Love you, Mom!"
  • Watch for the golden life lessons.  Hardships that made you stronger.  Lonely times that push you toward friends.  Answered prayers that remind you of God's faithfulness.  
All this from a revived set of dishes.  

I wish Mom were here this Mother's Day to marvel with me over this amazing story.  I wish she and I could share some coffee using the finely crafted cups.  I wish I could eat one of her wonderful meals served on the rich blue and white pattern.  That can't happen.  

But I can imagine the twinkle in her eye and the wink as she would surely look sideways at me and say,  "Never stop looking, Sheri.  Thar's gold in them thar hills!"

Here's praying you'll find the gold waiting to be discovered in your own life!