Saturday, November 18, 2017

Broad Strokes

(This may sound like a bit of a soapbox post although that's not my intent at all.  Hugs to you all in advance.)

"Different strokes for different folks!"  It was a favorite statement for my mom.

Most often she would shake her head as she said it indicating she didn't really understand the reasoning behind someone's actions or words.  But she wanted us to appreciate the right/privilege of others to think differently than we did.

She seemed to be on a perpetual quest for truth and for better understanding of people and their perspectives.  (Now in an effort to be totally honest, Mom would be the first to admit she was sometimes just plain nosey.  :-)  But more often she was trying to understand.)

"Don't judge people, Sheri, until you've walked a day in their shoes!" - excerpt from Mom's Book of Common Quotes.

As a result, her example gave me the desire to understand others as well.  If someone was behaving in a way that made no sense to me, instead of automatically passing judgement I tried to ask questions:
  • "I've known you for many years but what you're doing now doesn't make sense based on how I've seen you behave before.  What is this about?"
  • "Why are you laughing at that statement?  Don't you know how hurtful it is to the other person?"
  • "You don't seem like an angry person most of the time, where are those harsh, caustic words coming from?"
Imagine how much more pleasant our personal circles (and our world as a whole) would be if we all adopted Mom's advice.  Find out their WHY before judging someone.

When we get to the bottom of most problems we can usually find a root of unwillingness to consider the perspective of another.  In simpler terms - selfishness.  And selfishness will never lead us to better understanding.

There was a trigger for this soapbox post.

I read a blog last week written by a former classmate.  As a young man, this fellow was someone I admired greatly.  He was brilliant, extremely talented, had a dry sense of humor and a genuine caring heart for those around him.  

We didn't really move in the same social circles.  It was more often our mutual love for music that gave me the opportunity to be around him.  As with most classmates, we lost contact and only recently did I find his blog postings.

His writings have made it apparent that we chose two totally different paths for our lives.  For forty-something years we've journeyed in opposite directions with our thinking and life choices. 

But he is an excellent writer.  And because I'd seen him as a "fair" person while in school together, I've read his posts in an effort to better understand his perspectives.

But imagine my shock when his most recent post called me heartless, racist, intolerant, greedy, entitled.......the list went on and on.  Some adjectives were too offending to share here.  I felt as though I'd been slapped in the face.

Let me back up.  He didn't name me personally.  But his post was a rant about the "horrors of evangelicals" and their "twisted conservative perspectives."  I'm evangelical.  I'm conservative.

So, in essence, he was talking about me.  He was talking about my dear husband; all my children; my closest friends.

Now, if he and I had the opportunity to sit down over coffee and talk face to face, I feel sure he would never apply those terms to me directly.  I'm sure he still has too much class, too much compassion to insult another so harshly.

But sitting alone in his office, typing words onto a blank screen, he began painting a picture of his frustrations by using a huge verbal paint brush.  He painted eloquently without ever pausing to envision a particular individual who would be impacted by his accusations.  He used broad, generalized strokes to paint a picture of a people group as he sees them; as he wants others to perceive them.

I'm not refuting his life experiences.  I'm not denying his right to express his frustration with the individuals who have behaved this way on his journey.

I AM asking that we all THINK before we use our platforms of influence to spout hurtful, generalized words without considering where they will land.

His writing reminded me of someone who would pick up a gun and begin firing randomly into a crowd without knowing or caring who would be hit.  We've lived this nightmare too many times in our country.  We soundly denounce anyone who would ever consider such behavior.

But MOST of us have sprayed others with careless, thoughtless words many times in our lives.  Some even make it a habit and then justify their behavior.

It's unlikely this individual will read my blog post.  Although, I have tried to consider him as I've written.  I've wished for the opportunity to ask, "Why are you so angry?  What has happened in your life to make you feel so disillusioned?  How can I pray for restoration in your life?"

Our Heavenly Father uses a big paint brush, too.

Not so sure?  Read Hebrews 11.  That chapter of the Bible is known as a listing of the Heroes of Faith.  God's Hall of Fame. 

Included in that list are murderers, liars, prostitutes, adulterers, cheaters..... harsh adjectives, indeed.  It's not a list most would consider noteworthy.  But because of their faith in God (not themselves) and because of repentant hearts, they are given a brighter ending for their life story.

Faith in God makes us all eligible to come under the broad strokes of GRACE; not judgement.  I for one, want (and desperately need) those broad strokes applied to my life.  How about you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Feel free to leave comments (both agreeing and disagreeing) in the box below.  Let's dialogue a bit....

Monday, November 13, 2017

Too Wonderful!

It was a celebration for the history books!

As a family, we just concluded three days of spectacular merry-making in honor of our dad's eightieth birthday.  We missed my brother's family.  But this was the first time in over four years so many of us have been together.  The entire weekend was amazing.

(I'm not gonna lie - we are all completely Exhausted!  But it's that contented, job well done kind of exhaustion.  You know, the kind of weary from fun you wouldn't have missed for the world but couldn't repeat right now if your life depended on it?  Yeah, that kind of tired.)

At the time of this posting, my sister and her family have flown home to NC.  My dad and his wife are pulling into their North FL driveway.  Frank is taking a power nap.  And the girls' families are in various stages of recovery.  How grateful I am for my little crew.

Dad heard multiple versions of the Happy Birthday song.  They were performed each time he was presented with one of his eight gifts. (One for each decade.)  We even sang the hysterical Smith family version,  "Happy, happy birthday.  We know this song is short."  (That's it.  The entire song.  Just two lines.) 

We planned far too many activities.  We ate too much food - both the healthy and the decadent, unhealthy kinds.  We laughed too loudly.  Slept too little.  And started missing each other far too much before we even began our "good-byes."

But Dad left this three day party knowing, he is important in all of our lives.

There was the opening taco dinner together on Friday.  A huge fish fry and BBQ lunch on Saturday.  Frisbee, Spike ball, conversation, and corn hole competitions ran throughout the afternoon. 

Uncle Chris delighted the bigger babies by coloring with them in the play room.  Noah and Spencer fell in love with their second cousins Seth and Robbie.  Aunt Vonnie squeezed babies to her heart's content. 

Of course, we concluded the day with a bonfire and s'mores.  (Until it started raining; then we all ran for the house.)

Frank even invited Dad to preach for our congregation on Sunday.  Our church family is so loving and gracious.  They provided the staccato responses of "Amen!" and "That's right!"   While Dad provided a rousing sermon entitled "Crossing the Finish Line!"  It was a lovely service.

A photographer in our church was on the ready following service and worked almost thirty minutes trying to capture a single family photo.  Thirty minutes might seem extreme until you realize this was a group of 20 people:

  • one infant
  • two toddlers
  • three small children 
  • one teenager
  • two keenagers 
  • and eleven regular adults all trying to keep looking forward in spite of adorable baby sounds and  hysterical jokes all around them.
Our poor photographer had his work cut out for him!

After nap time (which we all needed by Sunday afternoon,) we came back to church for a dinner of leftovers.  We gathered in the sanctuary, turned on the video recorder and enjoyed an ol' fashioned singing, led by Dad who absolutely loves to sing.  

He couldn't have been happier!

John played keys; Nathan played drums, Cody ran sound and Dad directed the proceedings. At some point, everyone present made it on stage.  (Except Cody.  Sound doesn't run itself.)  Our girls even did an impromptu rendition of "This is My Story."  Nothing so lovely as family harmony.

Before babies could get cranky, we gathered around Dad and Christeen to pray blessing for them.  What an honor after all the times Dad has prayed for us.  

Then just like that - our year of planning came to a close and we hugged one another several times before finally climbing into vehicles and heading to different homes for the night.  (My hero husband got up at 3:00 AM to get my sister and her family to the airport for their predawn flight.  Love that man o' mine!)
After a big breakfast, Dad and Christeen hit the road around 8 AM.  I spent the remainder of my day quietly doing laundry, cleaning floors and bathrooms, washing dishes, returning furniture to its proper place.   

One of my favorite lines from the entire weekend came from my sister.  She looped her arm through mine as we walked, leaned her head close to mine and said, "Mama would be proud of how we've celebrated Daddy!"  

My voice caught with emotion as I answered, "I think you're right."

(Deep Contented Sigh)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Today is the 80th birthday of my dad!

I realize how blessed we are to still have him around.  But this isn't your average 80 year old.  He's a lot more than just "around."  No cane or recliner for this guy.

(Well, he does sit in a recliner twice a day.  Once in the morning for the news and once in the afternoon for Andy Griffith and a nap, if possible.)

He still cares for over ten acres of property adjacent to the home where he grew up as a boy.  He's spent years carefully cultivating the land.  Planting fruit tress, grape vines, blueberry bushes and each spring, a small vegetable garden.  He tends a dozen cows, a donkey, chickens, cats and a favorite dog.

We finally convinced him only a couple of years ago that it wasn't safe for him to climb on his roof any longer.  He still loves to hunt and fish and does both regularly.  If some household repair is needed, he's more likely to do it himself than to call for a technician.

He managed the best he could without Mom for over six years after her passing.  Then two years ago he married a fine lady who grew up in the same community he did.  We're grateful for the joy Christeen now adds to his life.

Over 50 years of pastoring and he's still at that, too.  The little congregation at Sunny Hills was so thankful when Bro. Burke came along and agreed to help keep open their doors.  He preaches every Sunday.  Leads Bible study on Wednesday and does all his own hospital visits.

He sounded out of breath when I called early last week.  It surprised me and I asked rather anxiously, "Daddy, are you okay?  What are you doing?"  

"Oh, Baby.  I'm just trying to get a roll of hay loaded so I can take it down for my ol' cows."

"Daddy, is anyone helping you?!"

"Well, let me see....."

A pause while he "looks around."

"Nope, I don't see anybody else.  So I guess it's up to me."  (His version of humor.  Which elicits a serious eye roll from me.)

As I write this post to honor my dad, I realize that particular phrase has been his lifetime theme.  "I guess it's up to me."

As a twelve year old boy, he watched his father leave their family.  His older three brothers were away in the military.  Two older sisters had also moved away.  But there were still four sisters younger than himself and a mom who needed help.

So I've heard the stories of how he quietly became "man of the house" when other boys his age were still playing games and enjoying life.  The Great Depression was a fading memory for most in our country at that point.  But not in rural north Florida.  Many of those people were still living in great poverty.

My grandmother was left with nothing but a tin roof over their heads and the land around them.  She began to lean heavily on her twelve year old son.  Helping his family was up to him.

I've heard how he adjusted the man-sized straps on the old plow harness to fit his own slender shoulders.  The plow was hitched to a mule but had to be guided and "man-handled" in order to make any progress.

Many afternoons, he would come home from school and work with the mule until dark trying to till a garden for his mom. Hunting and fishing were no longer "fun" activities for that young teen-ager; they became the means of feeding his family.

Once during his high school years, my grandma let him know they really had no more food.  Dad walked several miles into town.  He bravely approached the local grocer and asked to open an account so his mother would at least have flour and meal to feed them.

He pledged to the grocer that he would be personally responsible for the bill.

It took over a year to pay back the credit loaned them for that dire season.  But my dad still gets a look of steely-eyed pride when telling about being able to make the final payment to the grocer.  Grandma had no financial resources, it was up to him.

He moved to Pensacola after high school, looking for work.  His first visit to a nearby church was where he met the beautiful brown-eyed girl he would later marry.  (What a joy it was to celebrate Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary the year before she died.)

My sister, brother and I grew up in Pensacola.  Our story is exactly like many of yours.  We didn't have much in the way of finances but we never really knew we were poor.  Mom and Dad always found a way to get whatever we truly needed.  Providing was up to him.

Daddy often worked two or even three jobs at a time when necessary.  He completed building projects at every church he pastored.  He willingly drove long hours to get to my sister or me when we needed his help.  His church members all have great stories of their pastor who cared well for them and their families.

These days, Daddy does stand up a little slower.  And he listens to the television pretty loudly.  (Not that he has a hearing problem or anything.)

But his face still breaks into a smile when he sees any of his children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  His hugs are just as tight.  And the catch in his voice when he says, "I love you too, Honey!" warms all our hearts.

My dad came from a generation of men who knew a good reputation was important and that maintaining it was strictly up to them.  Ask anyone who knows my dad and they'll give you a glowing report of how he helped them or encouraged them at some point in their journey.

He passed on an appreciation for that concept to his family.  I married a man who understands both the importance and blessing of standing as the one who takes responsibility.  (I'm glad to report my daughters have followed suite with their husbands, as well.)

Today marks eight decades of Lavon "Pete" Burke walking on this earth.  I'm proud of the man he became and the life he has lived.  I'm glad to be his daughter.

"Happy Birthday, Daddy!  I love you, too!"

How about you?  Are you blessed to still have parents living 80 years or beyond?  Do they live near you or far away?  We'd love to hear your stories in the comment section......

Monday, October 30, 2017

Weather / Whether

It's COLD!!  And we're ecstatic!

I realize that this time of year, "cold" is a relative term.  But the past two days here in central FL have been absolutely Brilliant with their blustery coolness.  Please remember, any day in FL without humidity is Huge.

So, here's the real benchmark - our air conditioning unit which runs almost continually from March through December has been off 48 hours!  Yep, it's just that wonderful.

It was entirely too cold to sit out on the porch for devotions this morning. As I write, there's a blanket on my feet and my third cup of hot tea sitting beside me.  It's marvelous!  Completely marvelous!!

Fall hit the northeast weeks ago but not here.  Many of you are already experiencing your first snow.  We've still been using sunscreen.

I checked the temps this morning in two of my favorite places - Tel Aviv and London.  (60's and 40's.)  I knew friends there would be happy for us to be breathing a little easier in these parts.

Talk about a "Breath of Fresh Air.....!!"

Some may think it silly to be so bubbly about the weather. But my 25 years in North Carolina gave me a true appreciation for changing seasons.   Piling on the layers.  Snuggling under blankets.  Watching a fire roar to life; listening to its distinctive crackle.

Kristin and Cody have a real fire place in their little house.  So they will be hosting family dinner tonight.  We'll all enjoy servings of our official "cold weather foods" - Grandma Schreck's goulash, Meagan's taco soup and bread.   We'll pile into their living room and listen as the children relish the mysteries of a live fire.

You've probably caught on by now, it doesn't take much for us to celebrate.

Yesterday was a celebration day for Ava Quinn.  Her parents joined other parents of our church in dedicating their children to God.  Always such a special time.  Can you believe Ava is already five months old?

Not sure who told me this first but it's so true:  "When children are small the days seem to drag and the years seem to fly!"  

We also marked Cody's birthday last week which falls two days after their wedding anniversary each October.  They've now been married 3 years and Cody hit the Big 30!  Next week, we'll celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday together.  Great plans for that.

There have been other tidbits of news but I won't take time to share them today. Instead I'd just like to reference the title of this post by saying: Whether your weather be warm or wonderful; whether your children be under foot or over corporations; whether your celebrations be great or small, I pray you LIVE  LIFE to the FULL this week!


Monday, October 23, 2017

Pot O' Gold

This may actually qualify as an addendum to the "Hospitality" post.

We just said good-bye to guests who turned my house upside down and inside out.  They were LOUD, persistent and kept insisting on our full attention.  One gentleman even went to the bathroom with the door wide open!

But these visitors also gave the best snuggles and kisses we've ever had.  So although I'm exhausted and still waiting for someone to pick up a rather mangy-looking teddy bear before bedtime, I couldn't be happier for their visit.

You've most likely guessed that we played the "Noni and Papa" role tonight.  I'm a bit ashamed to admit..........we only had the three big ones for dinner and games.  We lacked the courage necessary to tackle all six on a Monday night.

I kept the menu simple - TACOS!

Upon arrival, Abby found the "mach-kurs" and began coloring right away.  Papa helped make paper airplanes for the boys who immediately began challenging one another to see whose aviary accomplishment would fly farthest.

Noah (4) volunteered to pray for our meal.  He thanked the Lord profusely for Noni and Papa having them over.

Spencer finished every bite.  He's six and knew all the right moves for grown up dining.  "No, we have to sit and wait for everyone to finish."  

Abby (5) requested seconds of the chips but not the meat.  Fine with Noni!  Nutrition is no longer my responsibility.

Papa cleaned the kitchen while I helped with coloring projects and organized puzzle pieces.  (Can't do that with the two year olds around.)

Once everything was put away, someone announced, "Time for hot tea!"  So we produced everyone's special cups and moved to the screened porch to share our tea. Each of them chose books for Noni to read while we sat and listened to the rain.

Abby and Spencer have spirit week at school which means costumes for each day.  Today was pajama day.  Easy enough, except Spencer left home with shoes, socks, pajamas and ONLY Pajamas!  Daddy had to make a quick trip back home for that must have additional "under" layer.

Tomorrow is "book character" day.  So Abby will be a make believe princess and Spence will be Mark Twain.  Abby said Mommy has her costume all set except the jewels.  Then she flashed that adorable, dimpled grin in my direction.  I didn't exactly run to my jewelry box but it didn't take long to get there.

Needless to say, her blue eyes lit up when she saw herself in the mirror once Noni had finished outfitting her with "jewels"!

Just that fast, the evening was winding down and it was time to transport our treasures back home for bedtime.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Thank you's in abundance.  A flurry of collecting socks, shoes, airplanes, books.  One desperate dash to the potty.  Seat belts buckled and "I love you's" yelled over the drizzling rain.

Tail lights exiting the drive signaled I could safely plop down on the couch with a sigh of relief.  Joy and Meagan are truly my heroes!

"Sheri, what about the title of the post?" you may be thinking.

During dinner I happened to mention that Papa and I had seen a rainbow right over our neighbor's house this morning.  It was unexpected because it hadn't rained yet.  Spencer spoke up and said, "I'd sure love to find that pot of gold!"

Faster than a leprechaun could leap a four-leaf clover I looked at him with a serious expression and said,  "Papa and I have three pots of gold right here!"

Spencer's eyes went wide.  Abby looked up from her plate.  Noah asked first, "Wehar, Noni!  Wehar's de goald?"

"Why, it's right here and here and here!"  I pointed slowly to each child.  Noah got that far away puzzled expression he gets when processing what he's heard.

When realization dawned, he broke out in a huge grin, "Noni, I not a pot o goald."  

"Yes you are, sweet boy!  You and Spencer and Abby are BETTER than any pot of gold to Papa and Noni!" 

They all three beamed.

How about you?  What's your favorite memory from visiting your grandparents?  Any funny stories from your own visiting treasures?  Comments are always welcome!

Friday, October 20, 2017


Oh, how VERY glad I am to have my husband home!

He and 15 others from our church just completed a short term mission assignment in El Salvador.  They came home exhausted and exuberant!  The vocational building project we started some six years ago is almost complete.

While he was away, I had the joy of hosting several people in our home for various reasons.

During our first trip to El Salvador in 2011, our original team assignment had to be scraped.  We were quickly re-assigned to work with a struggling little church positioned literally on the side of a mountain.

Within just a few days, our hearts were knit for eternity with the young pastors, their children and the beautiful people of that mountain community.  There was no government assistance for the families trying to scratch a living from the uncooperative soil.  That meant no water lines, no sewer system and sparse electrical service.

Yet in spite of the harsh living conditions, we found them to be some of the most hospitable people we'd ever met.  "Mi casa, es su casa!"   (Thanks to Margret Register, my eighth grade Spanish teacher, for that line.)

We tend to hear that popular phrase and imagine some sprawling hacienda with Antonio Banderas waving to us from the grand staircase of the entryway, "My home is your home!"  But on the mountain of Portellious it has a different connotation.

"Welcome!  Would you like a glass of rain water collected by my cistern?" 

"Have a tortilla, won't you?  She's frying another one on that stone in the lean-to kitchen now." 

"That's a long walk up the mountain.  Sit with me a while on this wooden bench.  My husband built it."  

"Oh, you need a toilet?  Yes, my outhouse is over there." 

"Mi casa es su casa!"

You get the idea.

During one of our hikes up the mountain, we experienced a torrential downpour.  The rain started just after we'd arrived at the home of one of the church members.  They gladly made room for our team to join them.  We crowded together onto the narrowly covered areas outside their sleeping room and the shelter that served as a kitchen.

They spoke no English and we knew only a few phrases in Spanish.  But we all smiled and sang for one another while their baby slept and the chickens clucked and the storm roared.  I left there feeling I had been hosted like royalty.

It gave me a new view on hospitality!

I grew up living in a house that was open to strangers and friends alike almost all the time.  Mom never worried much about her carpet or curtains or special dishes.  She just wanted people to feel welcome.  And they did!

Over the years, I somehow began to focus more on appearance than on atmosphere when entertaining.  And that subtle shift caused me to stop inviting people to our home at random times.

They could only come when I'd had plenty of notice.  Prepared a full meal.  Sanitized the guest bath.  Touched up the living room paint job.  The list went on and on.

But this year, Frank and I made a decision to change that.  Now granted, with just the two of us living here it is much easier to keep things tidy.  And I must be honest, we also have more room to hide a mess quickly when necessary.

Even so, we've decided to keep the priority on enjoying the company instead of impressing the company.  It makes for a much more relaxed visit.

There was a season in my life when I would hand guests a set of clean sheets and say, "These are for the bed you'll be sleeping on in that room.  Welcome!"  I don't have to do that anymore.  But I don't rush for the paintbrush, either.

And we've discovered there's a hidden secret about hospitality that our friends in El Salvador know well.  When you open your heart and home to visitors, it breaks you out of the ugly prison of selfishness and moves you into the beauty of kindness.  That is a move worth pursuing!

Hope you find a little something to ponder for yourself as we approach the 2017 Season of Celebrating.

What about you?  Did you grow up living in the house that was open to all the neighbor kids?  Do you enjoy hosting surprise guests?  Or do you prefer more notice?  I'd love to hear your take on hospitality in the comment section below.  


Monday, October 9, 2017

"She's Where?!"

We're overdue for a bit of humor at Embrace the Grace.  So, I asked permission to share this story from Meagan's baby file.

Actually since she was only five months old when it happened, the embarrassment is all mine - not hers.  But we've made it a rule in our family to never tell stories without permission.

You see, I grew up as a preacher's kid, too.  The most dreaded sentence to hear from my father was, "The other day at our house....."  My siblings and I would immediately freeze then start sweating profusely until we knew what story he was telling.  Whew!

Frank and I made a pact with our crew that we wouldn't do that to them.

It was the spring of 1988.  We were in the midst of our annual Easter production with our home church in Asheville, NC.  Our cast and crew, more than 200 volunteers, all gave hundreds of hours each year.  And with ten performances over two weeks, we celebrated the greatest story ever told with thousands in attendance.

Needless to say, it was equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion.

We had an amazing team led by Rita and Darlene ministering to the babies and children of the cast.  (Lots of young families participating in any church event means lots of opportunities for childcare. Amen?!)  They worked long hours right alongside the rest of us and we were SO appreciative.

As directors, Frank and I encouraged everyone to be considerate of the nursery/children's workers by promptly collecting their children after performances and during breaks.  We also tried to model that with our own tribe of girls.

Kristin (5) was actually in the play.  Joy (2 1/2) and Meagan just knew it as a time of being squeezed and loved on by surrogate moms.  Because I was still nursing, Meagan would often accompany me to meetings.

She contentedly endured many "meals" with her head covered and her mom talking fast.  "Wide Open" best describes our lives during those Easter seasons.

The team meal served between performances had just ended along with a quick meeting with our lighting crew.  Before heading into our pre-service prayer time I wanted to stop by the nursery and check on Meagan.

Of course, you NEVER let your nursery child actually SEE you peeking through the half-door entry.  Even babies contentedly playing will automatically melt into wailing if they spot mom, dad or a grandparent peeking at the door.

(Can I get an "AMEN!" from the nursery workers reading this?)

So I carefully stood back and surveyed all the bouncey chairs and cribs but didn't spot my baby.  It took only a moment to catch the eye of the vigilant nursery attendant.  I smiled and mouthed, "Where's Meagan?"  She gave a startled look my way then erupted in her signature laugh, "Oh, Sheri!  You're so funny!"

I stepped back further into the hallway, surprised by her response.  But then it dawned on me, they had obviously taken Meagan to the section where her sisters were being cared for.  Even as a five year old, Kristin had a great way of calming her baby sister. 

A glance at my watch told me to hurry.  Not much time to get all the way downstairs; check on my babies; then make it back in order to lead the prayer time.

Hurrying down the staircase. I was distracted by greeting arriving guests and responding to other cast members dashing by.  When I hit the doorway of the older children's play area, I wasn't as concerned about being discreet.  I just needed to confirm that Meagan was settled near her sister then get back upstairs.

My eyes swept the room.

Okay good, there's Joy.  And there's Kristin.  But Meagan was NO WHERE to be seen.  I checked the arms of each worker.  I looked into each corner but my baby was not there!

One of the workers glanced up and I called across the room rather intensely, "I don't see Meagan!  You guys don't have her?!" I asked hoping against hope.

The worker gave me the same puzzled expression as the nursery attendant, "Sheri, you're such a cut up!"  Her response made no sense at all.  Obviously, these people had been serving too long.  I turned and rushed back out the door.

One thing was for sure, my baby was missing and we were getting ready to lock down the entire church facility until I could locate her.

My heart was pounding and my high heels clicked loudly on the tiles as I started running toward the stairs.  My mind whirled with possibilities - none of them pleasing.

Frank would know what to do.  I ran a little faster.

Just as I reached the first landing, the worker who had been calling my name and running after me, grabbed my arm.  I whirled around to confront this lady who was trying to slow me down.

"Let me go!  I've got to find Meagan!"  Panic was setting in and my eyes had filled with tears.

"SHERI!" she was yelling now.  "Sheri stop!  Meagan is On Your HIP!"

"She's where?"  My voice trailed off as I looked down and realized, I had indeed been running all over the church while Meagan contentedly bobbed along beside me.

I know!  I KNOW!

I can hear you howling with laughter and cackling with disbelief, "No Way!  You did not lose your baby on your own hip!  That's impossible!"


Before you judge me too harshly, please consider this.....all my little girls were born before the oldest turned 5.  I had lived for five years with some baby almost perpetually riding around on my left hip.  That way my right hand was free for stirring spaghetti, holding the telephone, grabbing siblings before they could fall.......

(If you're left-handed, your baby most likely rode on your right hip.  Women all around the world are nodding with agreement and understanding.)

For many years, this true story has been my inroad for the hearts of women attending conferences where I speak.  I open by telling about losing my child on my own hip and suddenly women love me.

I know their line of thinking. "I left so many things undone before coming to this retreat.  I've been feeling like an absolute failure as a mom.  But at least I never lost one of my kids on my own hip!"

It's okay.  I'm happy to be a measure against which they can be encouraged about their own parenting - it is the toughest job in the world, you know.

That was the end of this story until last month......

Most of you know Meagan is now a wonderful little mommy with two of my six perfect grandchildren.  She also nannies for two infants.  Her life is full and she is constantly on the move caring for her charges.

She called one evening recently and said, "Well, mom!  You'll be glad to hear that history has repeated itself."

"What are you talking about?"  I asked, settling in to hear her story.

It seems she and Joy had met for lunch.  They were loading all the children into their carseats when suddenly Meagan couldn't find Madi.  She started panicking because she just knew Madi had most likely stepped back out into the busy parking lot.

"Joy!" she screamed.  "Where's Madison?!"

Joy started laughing and said, "Well, 'Mom!'  She's on your hip!"

Meagan looked down and sure enough, Madi was looking back at her with the innocent expression of total contentment.

The two sisters stood in the parking lot and laughed until they cried!

I have no spiritual conclusion for this except the scripture promise that our Heavenly Father will never lose or forget us - our names are engraved on His hands.  I'm thankful for that, aren't you?!

(Any stories from your own parenting/baby days that would make us smile?  We'd love to hear about them in the comment section.)