Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Posts in One

(Yes, I'm aware that everyone reading this post has access to the weather channel. But since blogging seems to be all about what is happening in the life of the "blog-er" I just thought I'd add that little tidbit.)

I'm especially glad that we didn't have some huge outdoor event planned for this morning; like a charity run, an annual yard sale, a community block party or (heaven forbid) a wedding! For my new friend in Canada and others in northern climates you may be shaking your heads in disbelief, "Who in their right mind would plan an outdoor event the last week of February?!" Well, winter is the ONLY time to plan outdoor events in FL because by late April the heat and humidity begin making it absolutely impossible.

Those of us here in the deep south look at pictures of the rest of you having lovely little lawn parties in the spring. We see your delightful, tented graduation parties. The beautiful June weddings in the garden with hydrangeas blooming all around (providing copious quantities of free foliage). And we are jealous!

Our middle daughter and her husband were married two years ago and she wanted pictures in a beautiful garden near here. So, their wedding was January 12th and our biggest weather concern was getting all his family and friends here from snowy New York. Believe me, this year would have been a different matter.

When we lived in NC, there were three months out of the year that required a certain chivalrous ritual. Frank would go outside and "warm up the car" so we girls could make the trip of whatever duration in relative comfort. Here in FL the ritual lives on; only now he goes outside to "cool down the car" mostly to avoid losing any of us to heat stroke. Every climate has its off-season. Smile.

On a totally different note:

I just got back late last night from two days of a ladies conference and I have a question to pose to you "reader friends". Do you think women dress more often for themselves, for men, or for other women? Now, I know that the first and most apparently appropriate response is, "For ourselves - of course!" But before you stone me for even thinking such a thought, let me explain.

You already know that I'm "fashion challenged". So just getting ready for such events requires the steadying influence of one of my daughters. (I'll have to tell you about our packing exploits another time; it's pretty funny stuff.) Then I get to the event and invariably find that it takes me a while to get comfortable with the wardrobe I brought. I go to the first meeting and think, "Oh good grief, they all got the cutesy courtesy memo which outlined what everyone would wear to each session. How did I miss that?!"

Now, usually I'm one of the speakers at these conferences and I comfort myself with the thought, "It's okay, Sheri. They know you're from out of town. They didn't expect you to dress like them."

But this time I was an attendee; stripped of my comfort blanket excuse; standing bare before the other women with their questioning glances which seemed to say, "Doesn't she KNOW that outfit is inappropriate?"

(Whew! That's an inordinate amount of attention to clothing in my estimation.) But I consider myself a pretty confident woman for the most part and if these thoughts bombarded ME this weekend it made me curious about what really goes on in the minds of other women. Hence the question. I'd really love the privilege of a peak behind your eyes on this matter. I tend to think that the more we understand the perception of others, the more compassionate we are with one another.

I'm convinced that in every encounter we have with others, there is some piece of the puzzle I'm missing from their story. If I knew what part of your life experience caused certain, shall we say, "unusual" reactions or choices I would be more compassionate; perhaps even patient.


Maybe that's a good ponder point for us all to take with us to church tomorrow. If you get a chance, I'd love to know your thoughts on this matter. Have a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ham, Cornbread and Cookies

So, late yesterday afternoon we headed home from our last official "pastoral duty" (to be said with a rich, English accent) of the day. And the most delightful phone call came to us. Burnette, Debra and Wayne had worked all afternoon preparing a FEAST just for our family. We reported our ETA and like clock-work, just as we pulled into our driveway, there they were. Dear friends who wanted to "love-on" their pastors.

Wayne had spent his day off, smoking a ham; which is a true art form here in the deep south. Debra prepared her fragrant mustard greens and snap peas; all perfectly seasoned and still warm. The crowning elements of said feast were bright orange sweet potatoes and Burnette's special jalapeno cornbread. Oh my WORD, this will surely be served at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Smile.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a tasty latte or a crunchy biscotti now and then just like everyone else. But when you're really tired and seriously hungry and the day has been long you don't want a snack, a cold sandwich, not even a crispy salad. On those days you want real, true, fattening, seriously caloric F O O D! And to have it delivered to your front door by dear friends who treat your grateful smile as though it were their greatest reward - well, that's heavenly!

Then tonight before classes began, two little angels (Katelin and Sarah) brought warm, chewy cookies that they had baked themselves. (Can't you smell the peanut butter?) Oh my, how NICE to be the recipient of anothers' love. These generous acts of thoughtfulness have given encouragement in BIG measure.

I have no great object lesson or conclusion to draw. This is just my personal testimony of thankfulness today. Lavish love that comes from genuinely kind hearts has no equal. I certainly hope that encouragement comes your way today too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ode to Young Moms

I shared with you earlier that all this "blogging" is extremely new to me. (Yes, it is true that five short years ago I had to be taught how to turn on the computer at a new job I had just taken. Shocking but true! Aren't you glad you weren't the one assigned to train me?!) At any rate, because communicating and learning are at the heart of who I am, I just love the whole idea that this venue literally opens the world to us all.

Through Smithellaneous, I've discovered other wonderful sites that inspire, encourage and challenge me. I especially enjoy reading so many from young mothers. If blogging had been available when my girls were little, they probably would have had to raise themselves! (There were no packs of wolves readily accessible in Asheville, NC like there were in Junglebook. Smile.) I had the privilege of being a stay at home mom for the most part - working part time as music director at our church and school.

Reading the blogs of these young moms makes me want to stand up and cheer loudly for them! Our three daughters were all born in less than five years. (I thought that was some sort of record until we met the couple who had three girls and decided to try for a boy one more time. The oldest daughter had just turned six. Know what happened? They had triplet girls! Yes, ladies and gentlemen. That would be six little girls - six years old and younger!!! You can not make up that kinda stuff.)

Anyway, trying to raise our girls; direct two music programs; teach a few piano lessons; serve as a pastor's wife AND keep my young husband smiling was pretty overwhelming for me on many days. During those early years, I did well to keep everyone fed and clothed. Most of the memories/ stories of my girls come to us from my sister, best friend, grandparents and adopted grandparents who stayed safely outside the vortex and offered moments of sanity on numerous occasions.

The book Let's Make a Memory by Focus on the Family only served to highlight an additional area of failure in my life. This great book taught that I was also responsible for trying to CREATE warm fuzzy moments that my children could take with them into their emotionally healthy future. Good grief, most days it felt like all I could do to just keep them alive long enough to GET To the future! Sigh.

But good news for the young moms and the young someday moms out there - all three of my girls have made it to adulthood and seem to be emotionally healthy (for the most part) and even have a great relationship with Christ. This is mostly due to the fact that their nutty mom was often heard muttering to herself, "Precious Lord, please help me teach these girls to mind without losing mine!" (Oh wait, you must go back and read that last sentence with an intense southern drawl because my drawl was severe in those days. Something like, "Prehshus Lawrd, puhleez........" and so on. Smile.)

Now you have another level of understanding why this is called Embrace the Grace. Grace has been a literal life-preserver for me in every season of my life. Our culture is riddled with perfectionist ideology that does not make allowance for babies who spit up on mom's collar just before you walk out the door for Sunday School or toddlers who have potty-training accidents right before choir practice or even for pre-schoolers who hit other pre-schoolers in the back just because they don't like them! Sigh.

In those imperfect moments of life, we must have Someone greater than ourselves to run to. Our Father pulls us up onto His lap, rocks us gently while we pour out the disappointment of our latest failure, hums quietly until we stop sobbing, sits with us patiently and finally reminds us of something that helps us smile. When hope is restored, He puts us back on our feet and cheers us on, "You can do this. I wouldn't have blessed you with these children if I didn't think you could. Besides, I'm right here to help."

And now all these years later, looking back I realize that the last statement is the greatest truth of all. "I'm right here to help!"

Whatever challenge your day may hold - keep at it, dear friend. Our Heavenly Father really is right here to help. And that gives me hope!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Gracie Marie LOVES Friday mornings! (And truthfully, so do I.)

Two points of explanation: 1. Gracie Marie is our silly little shih tzu. (You can read more about her on the "Loyal Friends" post.) 2. Friday mornings are as close as we get to a day off most weeks.

Being pastors is what we are called to; it's what we love! One of the only drawbacks? Very little free time. So whenever possible, we try diligently to preserve Friday mornings for -
(Fortunately, we serve a wonderful congregation that encourages us in this important activity.)

We still wake up very early (a terrible drawback of being kinda old) but on Fridays there is a whole different rhythm. I stretch and sigh contentedly before pushing back the covers. The cup of coffee is sipped more slowly. I stand by the sliding glass door and savor the sunrise just a moment longer. Then Gracie and I go to the reclining love seat, settle in under a lap quilt together, she naps and I read; journal; ponder; sometimes even watch the news.

It's deliciously decadent! Pretty much the equivalent of one of those "Death by Chocolate" desserts served with ice cream inside the cake and chocolate syrup imitating lava spilling down the sides - topped off by being "calorie-less". (Life just doesn't get any better! Smile.)

This particular Friday, Gracie and I were joined in our reverie by my oldest and youngest daughters. We all sat around acting like ladies of leisure. Talking, laughing, catching up on the week. Dad came in from his walk, Bella (the horsedog) plopped down contentedly and we all took a moment just to BE.

I heard a great story once about a team of American missionaries trying to get to a remote village in Africa. They had pushed diligently through the dangerous bush for several days; nothing was going to keep them from the people in that village. The fourth day dawned brightly and they hurriedly broke camp, eager to be on their way.

But the Africans traveling with them refused to move.

The missionaries began to urge them along, "Let's get going! Come on, the people of the village are waiting for us. Time is wasting!"

Still no motion.

One of the missionaries finally plopped down next to the guide and with great frustration asked, "What is going on? Why won't anyone get moving?"

"Sir," replied the guide. "We have traveled far and at a very rapid pace. Now, we must wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies!"

Wow! What a sermon!!

It always surprises me how easily I get caught up in rushing around thinking that God needs for me to hurry up; do what He's told me to do; get the job done right this Minute!!! But really what I see more often in His word is an intense interest in relationship more than anything else. And that requires being more than doing! HHHMMMMM.

Whenever your breathe day happens, don't feel guilty. Drink it in with joy and allow ample time for your soul to catch up with your body. That's wisdom!

(Special thanks to my dear friend, Becky Smith, for the huge advertisement on Smithellaneous yesterday. And to her readers who have checked out this blog, thanks to you as well for all your encouragement. UUMMM, a little side note: I just learned what the "comment button" is all about yesterday. I know, I'm sorely illiterate when it comes to all things technological. But I'm learning and excited about the process. Love you, Becky!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


It is about fifteen degrees colder than normal in FL right now. This has been the case off and on for several weeks. And while it is NOTHING compared with the many feet of snow, the ice storms and outrageous heating bills that our friends farther north are encountering, the cold weather here is a problem in its own way.

All the plants around the perimeter of my house look like someone has hit them with a flame thrower! I try not to get emotionally attached to things but planting and cultivating shrubs, trees and a little flower garden are good therapy for me. (Frank wishes my therapy involved the joys of vacuuming, mopping and dusting instead. Smile. But that's another post.) Many of our plants will be lost to this unseasonable weather.

AND there is the problem for us Floridians about how to dress. You must understand that when I first moved to NC in 1981, I did not own one single pair of closed-toe shoes. No, not one!! (You'll be happy to know that I've since remedied that and now keep a much better selection of needed footwear.) Also, our wardrobe of sweaters, even of long sleeved tops, is sorely lacking. Two nice warm sweaters can last the careful owner for years as there are typically only about three days in a FL winter that they can be worn.

Enter - LAYERING! This simple solution was unknown to me growing up in FL but I learned quickly while living in the snowy mountains of NC all those years ago. Now, it is important that you also know this: I am fashion-challenged! So, some of the pieces I choose for layering are often vetoed by my wise family. (It's part of the family creed. I will not allow you to embarrass yourself publicly if it is in my power to help you avoid said embarrassment!)

I've chosen some pretty unusual combinations before. I tend to think function before fashion and if I think it will keep me warm, I pile it on. (You may be hoping that my layered outfits are not as bad as you are imagining. Trust me they are worse!)

As I was snuggled under the covers on this cold FL morning, I was pondering the issue of layering - trying desperately to come up with a potentially acceptable outfit. And as usual, my mind began to wander.

Isn't it funny how we ALL layer in our lives. I'm not talking about clothing anymore; I'm talking about concepts and view points and chosen memories and such. We wrap ourselves in layers that we hope will protect us from hurt or vulnerability. And very often we discover that what we have chosen as protection is really detrimental instead. If I wrap my heart in bitterness or unforgiveness or even in self-pity, the outcome is not at all attractive!

It's important that we keep faithful friends around who challenge us to instead choose "garments of praise and joy and trust". These are not the natural choice of the human heart in most cases. Trusting God and choosing to wrap our minds in praise may seem uncomfortable at first. But we can learn to reach for these first when looking into our emotional closets. And as dear friends of
Godly character cheer us on, we end up with a MUCH better look!

HHMMMM! I guess that's why the Lord urges me to look into the mirror of His Word each morning before I head out in public. It's just part of the family creed, you know.

Stay Warm!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic Truth

I know that I probably should write something thoughtful or enlightening about Valentine's Day. And truly my sweetheart of thirty years marked the day beautifully with cards, roses and dinner out. (Collective AAWWWWW!)

But tonight I'm actually wondering how many of you struggle with the Olympics the way I do. It matters not whether Winter or Summer Olympics. I usually don't know much about the athletes or the sport itself unless they've been highlighted by the media. Some of the events have names that I can't even spell!

However, the scenario is always the same. Here I sit before my television, watching transfixed. Heart pounding, fanny pinched, uneven breathing - sometimes even holding my breath - as people I don't know, approach a moment of dreams and destiny.

Do you find YOUR muscles are incredibly sore after every evening of the Olympics? Not because of our own workout. Not because of pushing our bodies to the limit. Not because of anxiety over our upcoming performance. But just because of sitting and watching and hoping that no one will fall, trip or otherwise distinguish themselves through some horrible slip.

Oh the tension!

And then, when they successfully complete their performance, I realize I'm sitting with a big stupid grin plastered across my face. Sometimes, I even cheer before I can catch myself. Yes, Out Loud! (All this transparency is a little embarrassing but that's reality.)

Go Team U.S.A.!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Woman's Choice

Today marked the end of a very long time of fasting. Our church (just like many others) started a corporate fast on the third of January - twenty-one days dedicated to hearing from the Lord. But halfway through, Frank felt the Lord calling him to reach for a forty-day fast; a life-time dream of his.

I wasn't doing a complete fast but I did feel called to carry on with him. So this morning for the first time in FORTY DAYS I savored the joys surrounding a steaming hot cup of English tea! (And a game of solitaire!!)

To say that I dreamed of the cup of tea would be a gross exaggeration - but I did imagine it more than one would think normal! smile. I love my English tea! In the mornings it keeps me company on my drive to work. In the afternoons, it signals that work is over. At night, a cup of decaf says, "Relax, breathe deeply, exhale slowly."

By it's very nature, a good cup of hot tea sets a pace and a mood. You can not rush the process in preparing hot tea. You must wait while the water is brought just to the point of boiling. It is then poured over the tea bag and the steeping begins. More Waiting Required! Personal preference dictates the enhancers:milk, sugar, honey, lemon. Finally, the perfectly prepared cup of tea! Ahhh!

Perhaps this detailed description gives you a hint as to why fasting English tea has meant serious business for me. smile.

I hesitated for just a moment this morning. (Truth: it only takes thirty days to create a new habit or to break an old one.) I had gone forty days without my "habit" of hot tea in any form. I've known for a while that the single teaspoon of sugar I regularly add to EACH CUP was starting to add up in other areas.

So standing right there in my red kitchen preparing to pour the boiling water into the waiting kettle, I made a decision. I will celebrate the joy of drinking hot tea again but this time, without sugar. I chose NO Sugar! And you know what, it wasn't so bad.

(No, we do not have reports of hell freezing over but I'm sure you all felt that small tremor around 7:30 this morning!)

I've seen a definite improvement in the parts of me that follow me since going without the indulgence of desserts and other unnecessary sugars these few weeks. So, I thought, why not carry on in at least this one small way. The point, of course being, that all decisions impact us in one way or another.

We hear so much about our rights as women to make choices. And my question is this, "Why is that supposed to be such big news to anyone?" God Himself made choices part of His plan from the beginning. The real surprise is when WE get it right with this freedom called choice.

Frank and I are both really big about the scripture that calls to us, "Choose LIFE!" Now, this isn't about abortion or right to life; it's about making smart choices every single day and realizing that even seemingly small choices often have BIG consequences.


So I stop this evening to cheer with you over the choices toward life that you have made. Don't give up; keep working at it; the consequences will catch up and you will be glad.

Lot's of wrong choices haunting you? It's okay take the thirty day challenge in some small area. You'll see, those consequences will catch up as well. Real life is waiting!

Meanwhile, if you should catch me walking toward the sugar bowl feel free to scream out,
"Sheri, step away from the sugar!!"
We all need a little help from a friend!

PS: Special thanks to Amanda who continues to upgrade the look of my blog site! Be sure to read her latest entry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Daughter!

Today marks twenty-seven years since I became a mom for the very first time! (In other words, it's Kristin's birthday but I've just managed to make it sound like life is all about ME! Revealing, isn't it?! smile)

At 10:12 AM on February 11, 1983, I was handed the most beautiful baby girl that I had ever seen! Frank was so overwhelmed with joy and delight that he immediately suggested, "She's incredible! Let's have another one!" This explains the large scar behind his right ear; I didn't tear it off completely.

So, I thought you might enjoy the article that Kristin inspired which also provided the title for this blog site. I've included it here for you to read. (A bit more sermonesque than usual but Amanda has brilliantly included a link in there so you can even click on it and see a picture of Kristin. I am surrounded by brilliance!)

Happy 27th birthday, Precious Daughter!

My twenty-six year old daughter is not yet married. A beautiful young woman with a college degree; gainfully employed; a talented worship leader; dedicated to children’s ministry; passionate for God and did I mention beautiful? She’s one of those women that causes other women to say, “Are men blind?”

Recently, she and I were walking together and talking about where she is in her journey. We covered several important topics but she never brought up her singleness. Finally, I said, “Honey, I want you to know that Dad and I are praying with you every day over your husband. We know that God has graced you for this time of waiting but we are so proud of you for walking in that. Many people completely miss the point that it is their job to embrace the grace.”

It was an “AHA!” moment for both of us.

In fact, she turned and looked at me, “Wow, Mom. That’s really good.” “Uh, it was totally from the Holy Spirit, Honey. I’m not that smart.” We both laughed.

But there it was in a simple, yet profound statement. We must choose to embrace the grace!

God’s word proves that He will consistently and even lavishly provide the grace needed to walk through trying times. But too often we think that success and victory are only spelled: D.E.L.I.V.E.R.A.N.C.E. In most of the stories recorded for us, we find that He usually walks the characters through the trouble. He sent a fiery chariot for only one prophet, facilitating a clean get-away. Everyone else had to walk through their difficulties.

The response to Paul’s request for deliverance has always been a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I would prefer that He just give me the power to overcome; give me Solomon’s wisdom to judge; give me strength to take charge. But His ways are not my ways. And if my life is truly about focusing all the attention on HIM, then the easiest way to do that is for others to be drawn to the strength in Christ - not the power in me.

For six years our family travelled as evangelists all over the eastern U.S. Two adults, three teenaged girls and two stupid little dogs in a forty foot, fifth-wheel travel trailer – FULL TIME! But four hundred square feet and constant travel didn’t seem like a hardship for us. Our “little-house-on-the-highway” never even felt small! God had called us, He was gracing us and we chose to embrace that grace. Looking back now, I realize what a miracle He was providing. We could easily have missed it with complaining or self-pity.

What impossible situation are you dealing with today? Maybe you are facing a health crisis. Perhaps you are in the middle of a financial nightmare or a family dilemma. You may even be like my daughter and trying to watch patiently for God’s best plan in your life. As a child of God, you can be certain of this one thing – His grace is sufficient for you as well. Turn your face up to the Father and call out, “Lord, I choose to EMBRACE THE GRACE!”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loyal Friends

Yesterday's post was an everlasting EPISTLE!! Sorry about that, I'm still trying to get the hang of this. Special blessings on you if you dared to wade through the entire thing.

So this morning, I offer you one short blip that will hopefully make you smile.

I have two loyal friends who join me every morning no matter what time I do my devotions. Today, we saw the sun rise together then sat reading and making journal entries. Who are these loyal companions?

Bella and Gracie!

Bella is the "horse/dog" (yellow lab) that my husband has always dreamed of owning. A gift to him from another dog lover in our church. She brings her ball for me to toss (just how far can a lab run indoors, I ask you?!) Then after two or three runs, she curls contentedly at my feet with some part of her back or head touching my leg.

Gracie is the spoiled princess (or so the girls say). Our little black and white shih tzu who is afflicted with a terrible underbite. When she looks up at us, it looks for all the world as though she is channeling Elvis Presley. Hmmmm! She does not chase anything! And prefers that I get settled on the love seat quickly so she can finally curl up next to me.

Isn't it interesting how important touch is to all mammals.

So anyway, here we sit. The three of us; nearly every morning.

They remind me of the cute "prayer" I've read from time to time. Lord, may I be as good as my dog thinks I am. Amen. Amen to that!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Try a Different Seat

Family dinner will take place later this evening. So for lunch, I just heated a quick bowl of soup and decided to enjoy my bowl of Progresso Italian Wedding Soup in the front office instead of at my desk. I began to ponder the interesting perspective adjustment that occurs just by changing something as simple as where you sit.

Now my lovely office here at the church is cozy and inviting. Our board even went to the trouble of knocking out part of a wall to create a window for me! My view is great and contributes beautifully to my need for sunshine. But sitting here for a brief moment by the front windows gave me an entirely different perspective.

For instance, I can see the cars whizzing by and it reminds me of why our church message sign is so important. (We try diligently to avoid the embarrassing signs that say things like: "We're small because we preach the gospel!" or "What's missing from ch__ch? U R!!" sigh!)

I also just witnessed a cute little older lady toddle across the parking lot of the neighboring restaurant. She seemed a bit unsteady at first. But once she got her steam up, she made a bee- line for the edge of the parking lot; pushed aside two hedges that blocked her desired path; stepped through and quickly disappeared in the direction of her proposed destination. Whew, I wouldn't want to tangle with HER!

To the left of my new view is the hibiscus that produces such magnificent pink blooms all summer long. It was evidently burned rather badly during the multiple days of freezing weather we had recently. (The temperatures weren't so bad by most standards but they were brutal on all this tropical foliage.)

Yep, sitting up here I can see all sorts of different things. And the Lord began to quietly speak to me about the greater importance of being willing to see things differently!

Years ago I was at a conference where a terrific lady from California (Judy Rachels) was preaching about the importance of praying for our children. She shared honestly about the sorrow we feel when someone close to us is not following the Lord. I listened as she told about going in to her teen-aged son's room to make up his bed. She had been praying for months that he would turn his heart over to God and it seemed that things had only grown worse between them. In despair she just laid down on his bed and began to weep.

When her tears subsided, she looked up at the view her son looked at every night. Suddenly, God began to help shift her perspective in a very subtle way. Recent arguments with him came to her mind, words spoken in anger and haste, lines drawn - she relived it all. And lying there, she began to see him differently.

The situation did not change right then, but her perspective changed as she became willing to look at her son with different eyes. And eventually, he did become the son she was longing for; all because of a shift in perspective.

Thinking back over that story made me examine my own thoughts again today. It's so easy to get locked into a way of thinking and to decide that "the way I see it" is the only way to see it. Wow, what a dead-end road of reasoning!

Stubbornness should never be mistaken for tenacity. (I'm thankful that my family only reads these and doesn't post comments! smile.) I want the greater reality of my life to be that my heart is totally pliable, my thoughts genuinely ruled by my Heavenly Father. He does, after all have the best perspective.

Try it at some point this week. Switch seats (literally and figuratively). The new view may be life-changing!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dining Alone

So last night I ate my dinner

What do you mean, "What's the big deal." ?

Of all the things I dislike and try hard to avoid, this is probably one of the top three.

Now, don't get me wrong. I travel quite a bit and I eat alone all the time in airports. But that's different. In airports nearly 70% of all the other people are eating alone as well. Hence, all the two-seater tables and single seat high tops. These are all designed to indicate "Nearly everyone here is dining alone." So you sit facing the concourse, spread out your sandwich wrapper to cover the table top and start discreetly watching the people as they pass.

And people-watching happens to be one of my FAVORITE things to do! (I'll save comments on this for a later post.) So, problem solved.

However, for every other area of my life - I've gone to great lengths (sometimes ridiculous lengths) to avoid dining alone!

You know how it is. There is the "I'm reading this book so I'm fine eating alone!" technique. Which is frustrating to me because I can't seem to master the art of cutting my food while holding the book and my clumsy attempts give me away every time. There is the "I'm busy and important and didn't have to share this meal so I'm fine eating alone!" technique. But I'm undoubtedly the slowest eater in the world so THAT doesn't work either! Sigh.

In high school, it was Cindy Gregory (now Smith) who saved me from the horror. I was a serious English Lit Geek who loved to sing. This pretty much assured me a single seat by the wall! But my best friend happened to be a cheer-leader who drew others like a magnet. Crowded table guaranteed no matter when we went to lunch!

Things weren't so easy when I attended Southeastern University. Everyone's schedule changed every few weeks. Just as I would finally discover someone who's schedule matched mine - finals week would arrive, the semester would end and I'd be back on the search again.

I finally resorted to keeping crackers in my room; skipping lunch all together. (And with classes starting at 7:30 a.m. you know I didn't make the cafeteria in time for breakfast. That is a big confession before my three daughters but the last one just graduated herself so it doesn't really matter now. smile!) You must also remember that this was during the dark ages when we weren't allowed electrical items that drew more currency than a blow dryer. That means no refrigerators in the dorm and I don't think microwaves were even in use yet. (Yes, I AM that old!)

Okay, back to the main point - last night's dinner A.L.O.N.E.

My precious husband is coming to the close of a lengthy fast and because yesterday had been a little tough, I was going to be considerate and eat before coming home. But I needed a real meal, I did NOT want to go into a restaurant and KFC was too far away. So I popped into Crisper's for their wonderful half 'n half deal. (Which ended up being a whole 'n whole because the new guy didn't know how to ring it up.)

Now, I've spent more money than I intended, it took them forever and it's getting dark so I can't sit in the parking lot to eat. They even forgot to put the Thai Peanut dressing in the bag, which is why I went there in the first place! AGGGHHHH, back into the restaurant!

I tried the parking lot for a split second because by now I was HUNGRY. But two different "characters" walked slowly by and I just knew that they were casing my vulnerability level and I could hear the evening news - "Woman robbed in Crisper's parking lot! The thief got away with forty dollars AND her Thai Peanut dressing!"

So, I started driving; trying hard to hold my tomato soup with one hand and steer with the other. (Who in their right mind orders tomato soup as a take out?!)

I stopped at the next most well-lit area I could find on my way home - the RaceTrac Service Station! Pulling into a spot near the building, I made eye contact with the female worker who was emptying the trash. She realized I was eating my dinner there and smiled. It seemed a bit pitying but I'm sure we're friends now and that made it easier. My sister says I make friends in the strangest places - this confirms it.

I quickly downed half the salad, ate most of the soup, did a little people watching - discovered the service station technique need not be as discreet as the airport technique - and headed home! Ah, sweet relief!

But while I sat there, I was reminded of all the wonderful ladies in our church family who regularly eat alone and never complain. I thought of my precious dad who became a widower just fourteen months ago. I thought of recent divorcees whose dinner tables have changed unexpectedly!

I prayed for them and was reminded of the hope found in the promises that we are never REALLY alone. Christ sticks closer than a brother; He is with us always; He knows our every thought; He calls me friend! How amazing!

So, if you are privileged to dine with friends or family tonight (even if dining on mac 'n cheese) breathe a prayer of gratitude. I know I will!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brave New Beginnings

So, for me, this is a rather scary moment! Really scary!! Pretty much right up there with roller coasters and spiders!!! But this is something I feel compelled to do and I was always rather intense with my girls about prompt obedience. (“Delayed obedience is disobedience; go brush your teeth NOW!”) So how can I be disobedient when I feel that the Lord has instructed me to follow through on this?

I’ve only just recently discovered blogging. (I know, I’m way behind on things. But I also didn’t know how to use a computer just five short years ago! Shocking, isn’t it?!) And because I LOVE to communicate with people, I was immediately fascinated with the possibilities available through a regular blog. Apparently, you can communicate with friends from all over the world by simply keeping a consistent flow of information posted on the net.

Totally possible!

This venture has been the subject of MUCH prayer because there is nothing worse than being someone who thinks you have A LOT to say and you pretty much have NOTHING to say. So if you choose to take time to read this blog, I make you this promise – what is written will be the result of prayer and will hopefully be something that will encourage you or at least bring a smile.

As I was preparing for this first entry, the Lord finally gave me a perfect word picture to describe how I was feeling. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate. Now some of you will have to think back a little further – just like I did for this one.

Do you remember getting ready for your first day of driver’s ed? Choosing the perfect outfit, talking to your best friend the night before, sharing your anxiety with your mom, lying in bed and trying to imagine what’s coming……….

Now, for me, getting behind the wheel of an automobile was not at all frightening because Mom had been allowing me to drive on the country road leading to our house for a long time. (Yes, it was illegal “way back then” too. So, I’m certainly not advocating that with your teen-ager.)

Anyway, Mom had already braved the nail-biting lessons of:

Staying on your own side of the road;

Successfully avoiding pedestrians and small animals;

Keeping your eyes on the road at all times!

You know – the essentials. There was only one thing about driving that caused me to catch my breath with fear.


Don’t you remember how it felt the first few times you approached the interstate on-ramp? You knew that all the other vehicles were traveling at break-neck speed and that if you failed to “merge successfully” it would mean imminent death or at the very least, upset parents because you crashed their car? Whew! Just going back to those memories gives me heart palpitations.

And truth be known, that’s kind of how I feel again with this. Seasoned bloggers are racing along on the internet super highway. Brilliant communication is being shared, insightful, thought-provoking, even hilarious posts are whizzing by! And here I am, computer in hand, ideas flowing, heart racing - frozen in my tracks!

But I’m taking a deep breath, reminding myself that Scripture arms us with 366 different promises against

fear and I'm pressing the accelerator - uh, the “send” button. Hopefully, this will be a successful merge. One thing I know, the commitment is real and there’s no going back. This blog will last for a full year. Then we’ll see what else the Lord may have.

If you pass me doing only the minimum speed in the slow lane, just wave. At least I braved getting on the highway. I’ll find the passing lane in days to come. Thanks for braving this with me! Here we go………