Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Perfect Peace

We're facing another one of those moments you know is coming but are never fully prepared to navigate.  Frank's father is extremely ill.  Last week was Spring break here so all the girls made it to NC to visit Grandpa.  We were already scheduled to go Thursday of this week.

After surgery last Thursday morning, Dad Hawley had a serious respiratory reaction.  Kristin (who was at the hospital) called and said, "Mom!  Get Daddy on a plane as soon as possible."  We did.

(Weeks ago a friend had seen down the road of Dad's illness and had insisted that I promise to call if we needed a plane ticket at some point.  What a Blessing!)

Decisions came quickly, the phone call was made, a bag was packed and he was at the gate in less than three hours. Pretty good since we're a full hour from the airport. Because things were so unstable with Dad, it was decided that Frank would fly; I would cover the service this weekend then drive to NC.

Fortunately, I was already scheduled to preach Sunday after teaching workshops at a conference Friday and Saturday.  Because John and Joy made it back Saturday and because our leadership team was supporting him in prayer and because I had the details covered, he was able to be fully there once he hit the hospital door.

One leader had prayed over him, "Father, help Pastor to disengage from FL and know it's okay to be a SON for this moment."  What a powerful prayer.  Frank took in the message and has mentioned it to me again several times during our short phone conversations.  Simple words can be powerful.

Dad Hawley is still holding his own but is most often confused due to the extreme pain and large doses of morphine.  Someone from the family is with him around the clock.

In addition to Dad's health crisis, the NC family have been trying to get Mom Hawley relocated to a small apartment where she can have help if she needs it. (That's why Frank and I were originally going up this week.) But imagine the mammoth task of sorting through 30 years of memories with a dear grandma who has a story attached to each piece of paper and every article of clothing.

Frank and Kristin have worked ten and twelve hour days with her trying to lift the load for his brothers and their families.  Everyone is shuffling work and school schedules in order to be available. It's times like this you're thankful for BIG FAMILIES!

I leave tomorrow for the first ten hour road trip I've done alone in a long time.  Listening to books and music and podcasts should help the time pass as quickly as the miles.  (Yes, there will probably be a few phone calls in there, too.)

My mind is racing to find the thread that will tie all this into a tidy package of encouragement for you, dear readers.  I guess that thread would be the one that keeps me tied together during all the crisis moments of life.  Those moments when you know snap decisions will have long lasting consequences.  Those moments when you lean into the arms of One stronger than yourself.

"You will keep him (her) in perfect peace because his (her) mind is focused on YOU!" 


 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Zip, Shoot, Scoot

I was fortunate to have both of my grandmothers while growing up.

My dad's mother lived almost her entire life in a small, rural community about 100 miles east of Pensacola, FL.  She modeled what it meant to stay strong in the face of adversity.  She loved God and her family.  Life wasn't easy for Grandma Burke but I remember her biscuits, her laugh and her hugs.

My mom's mother lived nearest to us and influenced my life in so many wonderful ways.  Grandma Miller had grown up on a farm in Indiana.  She and her brother, Martin, had amazing stories of adventure that would invariably leave us all in stitches as they recounted their childhood.

Uncle Martin continued to live in Indiana while Grandma married a young man and moved to FL. They saw one another sporadically but when they did get together, you could see the love and admiration they had for one another.

Their shared stories of remembrance seldom turned to the darker experiences of their lives: abandoned by their father; raised by a lonely mother; shunned by the local community; required to leave school after fourth grade in order to help with whatever work they could find.  No, those stories were never talked about.  They chose instead to focus on the rich love of their mother; the good work ethic she taught them; the laughter they enjoyed during humble meals.

Grandma worked many different jobs through the years.  So I always knew her as a working woman. She drove a cute little tan VW bug for many of those years and she liked to drive fast.  (I'm sure "fast" is a relative term.  We are talking about my grandma after all and I was never with her when she got the speeding tickets.)

There were three words I often heard Grandma use when she was driving.  Zip.  Shoot.  Scoot.  She would say something like, "Hold on now, Sheri.  I like to ZIP around the corner so people behind me can make the light, too."  Other times she would say, "I'm going to SHOOT over to the grocery store. Do you want to go with me?"   Then we would hear, "Alice Marie, let's SCOOT down to the sub shop and grab a sandwich."

Grandma was always on the move and she didn't like wasting time!

I believe her desire to work hard and to keep moving was mostly a result of those growing up years. But Grandma's genuine love for life, her ready smile and infectious laughter were the hallmarks that have stayed with me.  As I drove home from my office recently in my only little red compact, I was reminded of the three words I so often heard her use and I had to smile.

This post is rather short but I've waited a long time to say:

  • I hope you'll zip through all your difficult moments this week.
  • Thanks for shooting over here to read.
  • Be sure to scoot back by next week for a fresh look at basic thoughts.
Blessings to you and yours! 




Friday, March 10, 2017

Wonder Words

I can not describe how HAPPY I am to be back on line with this blog!

All your kind comments have added to my joy - thank you!

For six long weeks Embrace the Grace has been silent because I didn't act quickly enough on a warning I received.  What could have been dealt with in just an hour or so became a HUGE ordeal requiring days of time invested and weeks of anxious concern.

Ben Franklin tried to warn me, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Wonder Words that (if heeded) would have saved Cody, Frank, John, Amanda, Becky, Jeremy and me so much time. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I DID go crying to all those people begging for help.  Thanks to each of you for the help you gave.)

In the end, it was my own Prince Charming who discovered the solution.  Everyone contributed in one way or another but it was Frank who finally found the pathway to freedom for my long-silenced blog site.  In other words, he got me up and running.

Wednesday night after Bible study, he calmly told me, "Honey, check your computer in the morning.  I'm pretty sure your blog is working again."  We've thought it was working several times over the past weeks, so I didn't react then.

But the entire office heard my squealing yesterday morning when I made the discovery that Mr. Wonderful had once again come to my rescue.  I love that Man!

I pondered what to share in this first post after six weeks of silence.  Finally, I knew WORDS and their importance seemed the appropriate topic.

If you stop by routinely, you know how intense I am about watching over our words; especially words spoken to others.  "The power of life and death are in the tongue..." is a favorite scripture for me.

Our entire family has been fascinated by Madi who developed a language all her own since she hasn't quite mastered English yet.  She's a quick kid and observed that older siblings, cousins and adults speak in long full sentences with lots of different voice inflections then wait for a response from the listener.

So, around 14 months she grabbed the six or seven words she COULD say and began stringing them together with "full sentences" that go something like this, "Mama, slkafdj wieioei lkaskjox adskkj sj aks  No-wah!"  (That sentence routinely comes after brother Noah offends her somehow and she needs Mom to fix the problem.)

"JJ, zios asldkfj asd asiie dakjl asdklj asdi adfkasjdl asdio?" Then she turns her head slightly, pierces Aunt Joy with those big blue eyes and waits for an expected response. We have all found ourselves complying and answering, even though we have No Idea what our little Wonder Word Smith has asked.

She even patted my hand the other day as she launched into a full paragraph of words that made perfect sense to her but were unintelligible to Noni.  I found myself nodding and thanking her for the blessing before she toddled off on her skinny little legs.

Madi has discovered the wonder of words and she's chosen to not stop talking just because she has such a limited vocabulary.  Imperfection should never keep us from attempting what we long to do! 
(Those are great words of encouragement; totally worth the read today.)

I'll never be able to express my heart perfectly but that doesn't stop me from trying.  Some may remember that I first started blogging after watching a movie about a woman who took a year of her life to work her way through a cook book by Julia Child and blog about it.

While watching that movie years ago I felt the little nudge, "You have so many more things to talk about that would encourage people.  No, it won't be perfect.  But you can at least attempt writing.  TRY!"  

Those were Wonder Words of challenge for me.  And here I am over 450 posts later, grateful that I didn't allow the certainty of imperfection to keep me from diving in to the wonder of word crafting.

I read again just this morning in the book of John how God used words to create the heavens and the earth.  Then in chapter 3, He used words to affirm Jesus, "The Father loves the Son extravagantly!"

After reading, I sat quietly pondering the power of words.  The joy on Madi's little face when her stumbling "sentences" bring a smile and response from those she's speaking to.  I rehearsed the ecstasy experienced by Zach, Noah, Abby and Spencer as they share words with Noni and Papa.

"PahPah!  PahPah..." Zach beams and claps pudgy hands indicating it's time to play "patty cake, patty cake, baker's man..."

"Noni, I wen two (stops to hold up two fingers) two poopsh in de potty!!" Noah is about to conquer the first mountain of toddlerhood and move into Big Boy territory.  He haltingly reports; we cheer!

"Noni, we lurhned a new shong today.  Wanna heaur it?"  Abby is excited about all of life.  Her beautiful words remind us to celebrate each new moment.

"Papa, listen to my new Bible verse...." Spencer has left behind the precious toddler sound but still loves words and their ability to connect us to one another.  We look straight at him and listen until he is completely finished.  He smiles with his sense of accomplishment and victory; feelings brought to him by words.

So the question for today is this.....what words of wonder are waiting to be delivered by YOU?  Who needs you to look directly at them, listen carefully, then cheer wildly?  Who needs to hear of your love for them?  Who needs the lesson you recently learned?  Who is waiting for your WORDS?

I wonder........


Thanks for being excited with me that the blog is working again.  And brace yourself, all these words have been bottled up for a long time.  I think I know exactly how Madi must feel.














Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Testing! Testing!

So I'm testing to see how many of you are able to access this new site.

Cody (our third son-in-law) has worked all month to get Embrace the Grace back up and running.  He finally said this should get me back on line, just not under sherihawley.com.

So, my hope is that I haven't lost my opportunity to connect with you through blogging.  There's been a real void for me these past thirty days.  (I started to say what the problem was but in reality, I didn't understand it enough to offer an explanation.)

What I do know is this - there's been a lot of important life I've had to let rush past without so much as a "Look what happened..." to the Embrace the Grace family.  Here's a quick list of a few:


  • Frank's 60th Birthday!  
    • I spent the six days leading up to his actual birthday providing a "decade specific" gift.  (The first gift was a slinky, candy and tennis shoes.) The best part, he said, was the card I wrote for each decade.   
  • Spencer's 6th Birthday!
    • He requested a superhero party; we gladly worked with his parents to make it happen.  He and Papa celebrated together as Spider Man (Spence) and Captain America (Papa).  
  • A fun wedding at church.
  • A conference with GREAT speakers who made me laugh, cry and ponder.
  • Our 2017 Missions Week 
  • A Fabulous birthday surprise for Kristin.  
    • Her precious husband started planning almost six months ahead just because he wanted her to experience a surprise.  He was royally successful!
  • A Terrible disappointment due to the flu.  (This one merits its own post!)
  • A marvelous visit from my dear friend of over thirty years.  She just needed to come sit on my porch for a couple of days; I gladly sat with her.
So here's the deal, if you were able to access this post I need to hear from you.  Perhaps it would be more effective to quote Abby Grace the four year old,  "PUH-LEEZE!  Hope the gurhl!"  

I look forward to seeing your comments.  It really would help this girl.  

Blessings! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Life and Joy and Legacy

On January 23, 1937 a woman left her ten children at home and walked some distance through the bitter cold to an abandoned service station.  Freezing winds whipped through the building; mocking the burlap sacks attached to windows as a barrier.

In that lonely place, the woman valiantly wrestled the excruciating pain in her body as an eleventh child was being born.  Hidden in a rural corner of south Alabama, no one would hear or acknowledge her cries of pain.  Childbirth is never easy.  It requires focus and fortitude and a tightly held vision of the joy to come.  She labored alone.

Experience had taught her all the right steps and compassion moved her to clamp the umbilical cord allowing the baby girl to live.  But there was no joy for the woman.  The child was labeled illegitimate and therefore unwanted.

At this point, details surrounding the baby's birth grow more sketchy.  Somehow a local judge was contacted and the baby was handed over to him.  He called a woman in Pensacola, Florida who he knew was looking for a child to adopt.  There were no attorneys called; no paperwork was needed. The child was simply classified as abandoned.

But Cora's joy overflowed as she made her way to the judge's home. She dressed and bundled her new found treasure cradling the baby in her arms the ninety miles home. Unable to have children of her own, Cora was 35 years old when she chose the name Alice Marie for this miracle child that would be her one and only.

This isn't the opening for some "made for TV" movie.  It isn't a fabricated story to promote adoption. It's the record of my own mother's birth; a birth we still consider miraculous.

Mom's growing up years weren't necessarily easy as her father left and there were many years of uncertainty.  But she made the choice pretty early to dedicate herself to Christ; doing her best to follow His leadings.

And it must have also been in those early days when she took on the attitude that became her trademark:  "In life you're either going to laugh or cry - I choose to laugh!"  When she went home to Heaven eight years ago, that's how everyone remembered her.

"Alice brought the party with her!"

My sister, brother, dad and I never had to wonder if we were loved; Mama told us and showed us routinely.  She put dad's needs ahead of her own and made sure he knew he had first place in her heart.  She ran a tight ship in the area of discipline making sure we knew what was expected and that disobedience brought swift consequences.

There was always an abundance of hugs and kisses.  I especially remember the hours spent rocking in an old red platform rocker that threatened to topple over if we pushed back too hard.  Mama rocked and sang to me when I was sick, which was often as a kid.  Her arms comforted and her voice encouraged during the drama of teen years.  She cheered and bragged on my own little family making sure my girls knew they were her treasure.  It was the same for my sister and brother.

There are too many stories to tell.  Too many lives she touched to mention them all here.  Too many friends that still feel the void of her home-going.  But this one thing seems important to record on what would have been her eightieth birthday, Mama embraced life and people and fiercely loved everything about being part of this world.

Tonight I'll gather with my family and we'll celebrate the legacy of Alice Marie.  We'll all tell stories about "Mema" which will make us laugh and cry.  We'll try our best to explain to her great-grandchildren what an amazing woman she was and how much she would have loved them. Together, we'll thank God that she urged us all to follow Christ and that we'll see her again some day in heaven.

Bottom line is this, the "unwanted/abandoned" baby girl grew up and made the most of the years given her on this earth. Her influence outlives her!  I'm so very grateful to have been known as her child and I want that to be the story of my life as well.

Happy 80th Birthday, Mama!  I'm sure you and the angels have planned a celebration that could never be matched here!




Friday, January 13, 2017

Cleaning the Corners

First off, I have spectacular news to share:
          John and Joy are having a baby girl!  Ava Quinn Schreck is set to make her debute in May!  We, along with her siblings: Spencer, Abby and Zach, are ecstatic!

(I'm aware that there were far too many exclamation points for that opening, but I truly believe they were merited.  Every grand baby deserves exclamation points just for being born!!!)

Joy graciously invited John's mom Linda and I to be at the appointment where the gender of the baby was to be discovered.  Joy felt certain this baby would be her third son.  Everything with the pregnancy pointed to another boy.  So when the technician announced confidently, "It's a GIRL!" we all gasped and squealed with surprise.

Linda is very quick-witted.  She leaned over and whispered to me, "I've come up with a name I think they'll approve.  How about - SHERINDA!  The perfect representation of her two grandmothers, Sheri and Linda."

Joy asked what we were whispering and giggling about so we proceeded to share our brilliant idea, "Since this is baby four, don't you think we should be allowed to name her?  And what better name than the blending of her grandmothers' names - SHERINDA!!"

Joy lost no time in squashing our hopes of a namesake,  She laughed for a moment then responded firmly, "Uh, NO!  John and I already have a name but thank you for the thought."

We kept finding hilarious new twists on why they should choose this name that sounded so much like the proper name for a female superhero.  But alas, we were unsuccessful in our bid.  We had to be satisfied with writing it on the cake picked up for the celebration dinner.  And I recently had it written on a Starbucks coffee so it could be called out in the waiting area.  I snapped a picture and sent it to Linda.

But Dear Reader, if you'd like to use the name Sherinda, feel free.  We discovered it hasn't been used in the U.S. in over fifty years.  We decided to be happy with the name Ava Quinn as Joy said it means "peaceful wisdom."  Beautiful, right?

In other news, I'm finding all sorts of newness in my home of eleven years that I never knew existed. Meagan and Nathan moved into their own house in October.  They had lived with us for two years while paying off school loans and saving toward the purchase of their first home.  It was an awesome experiment that God graced us all to walk.

So Frank and I are finally official "Empty Nesters" after having someone live with us for the past 34 years. We wondered a little about what it would feel like; living alone after all this time.  Fortunately, we've invested in our marriage over the years and I'm able to joyfully report to you:
We Still Like Each Other!

Frank's first project was to move all his dress clothes to another closet allowing him to spread them out.  Then he took on the garage: organizing, identifying, purging, until he could fit the mower, the trash can and (drum roll please)  My Car inside.  I'm still periodically opening the door into the garage and finding myself startled to see a car there.  (It's a first for us.)

My dad and his wife, Christeen, came to visit for Thanksgiving so I quickly set up the guest room.  But I've been a bit slower about setting up the room we'll use for office/toys/extra guests.  I have a strong spirit of "throw away" on me right now and I'm going with it.  We're being very intentional about what we place in each open spot.

We're taking the time to not just straighten but to go to the very edges of each room.  I'm cleaning out corners all over my house.  (Even the kitchen junk drawer got a cleaning.)  It's time consuming and I'm being ruthless with my sentimental heart.  "If you want a clean, tidy look in your home you can't hold on to every scrap of paper!" I tell myself.

But oh the smile it brings to my face when we walk in each evening and there is no clutter.  Frank has expressed a small bit of frustration over my Nazi-like preference for cleared counter tops.  But he too, senses the peace brought on by having a place for everything and everything in its place.  I'm loving it!

I want our home to be comfortable and have the lived in feeling; not a show piece by any means.  It will always be the gathering place where something spilled is not the end of the world and if something gets scratched or broken, we chalk it up to life.  But knowing the corners are clean causes a deep contented sigh in my heart.

Our church family is in the middle of our annual 21-Days of Prayer and Fasting.  It's always a great time of refocusing for the year ahead.  Kind of like cleaning out the corners of your heart and mind. 

We use our prayer times to sweep out any clutter and to listen as the Holy Spirit tells us about old attitudes we've held on to for too long. What excuses need to be thrown out.  We intentionally focus on filling our hearts with God's word and on making intentional plans that will be the most beneficial in the coming year. This discipline provides us with a clean slate by putting priorities in place and bringing peace.

I'm well aware that someday, Ava Quinn will be big enough to look into the depths of Noni's life example. She'll immediately recognize any nastiness or disobedience I've allowed to stay around. Knowing I'm being watched and that the corners of my heart are clean brings a deep, contented and grateful sigh.  

Feel free to try a little corner cleaning of your own.  Toss out that unforgiveness and bitterness from last year.  Intentionally replace them with love, joy and peace.  May you, too, experience the deep contented sigh of a tidy heart and mind.

Blessings!!















Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sweetest Gift

'Tis the season of gift giving!  Gift choosing, buying, wrapping, distributing, returning.........

But last week, I received one of the most precious gifts I've ever been given.  This gift involved absolutely no money, no stress, no fretting, no wrapping.  In fact, it was an accidental gift, really.

Joy needed a little help during nap time with her tribe.  A good mommy haircut does NOT happen with toddlers running around the beautician's chair.  Noni gladly accepted the opportunity to sit with them.  (Also a great time to fold a couple of the huge mountains of laundry found in every home with pre-schoolers.)

Zachariah went to sleep pretty quickly.  Abby made one extra trip to the potty and finally dozed off. But Spencer is 5 1/2 now.  He's aware that sometimes you can wait quietly and patiently and the clock will run out.  

When asked if I could let him get up, Joy answered emphatically,  "No!  He has to stay in his bed and rest even if he doesn't fall asleep.  He'll be too cranky tonight if he doesn't rest."  Okay, Okay.  I couldn't remember ever seeing one of my grandchildren cranky but following parental instructions is important.

I tiptoed into his darkened room and found Spencer (all boy) trying to stand on his head; bottom in the air; face obscured by the blanket.  Composing oneself before correcting a child is also important so I hesitated, not wanting to laugh.  Just then Spencer looked up, shocked to see me standing there and quickly melted back onto the mattress.

"Hi Noni," he whispered.

"Hi Buddy, mom says you have to stay in bed until 4."

"Is that a long time?"  His huge, round eyes are the most incredible shade of blue.

"Yes, I'm afraid it's another hour."  Our voices were barely perceptible.  He looked crestfallen but resolved.  He knew Mommy meant business.

An idea hit me, "Spencer, would you like for Noni to lay down with you?"  He nodded eagerly and began moving to the far edge of his bed to make room.

There's a reason they make cute little race car beds for children only.  It's because they're nearly impossible to climb into once you've passed 30.  It won't be hard for you to picture the gymnastics required for a 58 year old woman to scale the bright blue wooden side of said race car then plop onto the too small mattress all the while trying hard to NOT squish your grandchild!

Yes, I was out of breath by the time I'd situated myself next to Spencer.  Our heads squeezed together near the engine and my feet drooping over the trunk.  I closed my eyes and whispered a word of gratitude.

Then the magic happened.......

The precious boy I've loved since before he was born snuggled up close with his head laying on my outstretched arm.

"Noni, I had a great lunch today." His voice was incredibly quiet.  I strained to catch each word.

"Really.  What did you eat?"  I too whispered softly.

"Double mac 'n cheese with apple juice."  He reported this with a sound nearing reverence.

"Oh, yum.  That sounds delicious."  His head bobbed up and down a couple times in agreement.

I reached to smooth the blond hair.  Our whole family is about music and rhythm so I softly patted his head with a distinct pattern that seemed to quiet him.  In less than 60 seconds, he was breathing the slow, mechanical, tiny puff breaths that signal sleep.

His entire body relaxed against me and big tears formed in my eyes.  I knew I was in the middle of a magical moment.  My mind raced to drink it in fully and to record every detail.

Just how often does a grandmother get to climb into a race car bed and snuggle the object of their affection?  Not nearly often enough.

I laid there perfectly still; not wanting to disrupt the angel beside me.  I prayed over him, asking God to fill his room (along with Abby and Zach's) with guardian angels.  I rehearsed the sound of his little voice, the sweetness of his breathing, the smells of his outdoor play and the comfort of his nearness.

And in that moment, I knew I must surely be the wealthiest woman on earth!  What a Gift!

Joyous Noel!


What magical gift-giving have you experienced?  Our other readers would enjoy reading your story as well.  Please share it in the comment box below.





  

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