Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I just talked to Dad on my drive home from the office. My sister and I both try to check in with him every day if at all possible. Dad lives in north FL; seven hours from me and eight hours from Vonnie. The fact that we don't live close to one another became very difficult when we lost Mom fourteen months ago.

"Lost" Mom.

She would certainly be laughing at that right now:
"What, you can't find me?!"

Mom is where I got my decidedly warped sense of humor. Everyone who knew her remembers her first for laughter and practical jokes. And she never allowed facts to stand in the way of a really funny story. Hmmm, my little mama.

The Friday before she passed away, we were all in her new room at the nursing home trying to make it as much like her own as possible. Vonnie (who has the better eye for decorating) and I had gone home to gather lots of Mom's favorite things - family pictures, some of her angel collection, a couple of scripture plaques, an afghan, even a recliner for Dad. We had also decided to bring her favorite sofa picture to help camouflage one big wall in the room.

Everything came together nicely except for the sofa picture. Nothing Frank and Chris did seemed to work at keeping it secure on the wall. After several failed attempts, Vonnie and I watched as the switch was flipped and it became a "MISSION" for both of our husbands. They were going to hang that picture for Mom and no two-bit nail was going to keep them from success! (Que theme song for "Mission Impossible". Oh wait, maybe the theme from "Rocky" would be more appropriate. Yeah, this was definitely a "Rocky" moment. Smile.)

Frank and Chris worked and they worked and they worked, trying every trick known to modern man in their quest to make that picture stay on that wall. After nearly an HOUR - their brows drenched with perspiration; several nails bent; wires snapped; a couple of hammered thumb-nails; two preachers trying hard not to curse; the moment of success finally arrived.

They both let out a cheer, high-fived one another, accepted congratulatory hugs from doting wives, shouted "tah-dah" with great delight - the picture was hanging! We stepped back to admire their handy work.

CRASH! BANG! BLAM! The huge picture escaped its restraints and once again plummeted to the floor below. (Now listen, we both know that the wall wasn't that big; "plummeting" requires a lengthy descent. But I couldn't think of a better word to use and this is, after all, a story about my mom who loved to embellish just a bit. Smile.)

We girls held our breath to see if the cursing would finally ensue!

I looked back over at Mom and couldn't believe my eyes. Not a sound was emanating because Mom hadn't been able to talk for awhile. But her tummy was jiggling, her eyes were dancing, she was pointing at the wall and "laughing" in the best way left to her.

"Look at Mama!"

The tense moment immediately dissipated and we all focused on what Mom was modeling. "Laugh, my babies! Laugh!" We did.

Four days later, I made it back to Bonifay just forty-five minutes before Mom went home to be with Jesus. (That memory is still very tender and will probably continue to bring tears for many years to come.)

Just one more reason why Easter is so much more to me than bunnies and baskets. Resurrection Sunday reminds me that I will see Mama again. It is hard coming to holidays and family celebration times without Mom. And we will always miss her. But God's great promise is that she is waiting for us!

So I choose to dry my tears, thank God for that hope and

I decide to watch for opportunities to -


Mom would be quite pleased.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ah, The Wonder of it All

This morning I have great news to share with all of you who are in the throes of preparing Easter Cantatas, Passion Plays, Vignettes, Illustrated Sermons, Special Music, etc., etc. Don't get discouraged; what you are doing matters. It matters very much!

Easter is absolutely my favorite time of year! And yesterday I was reminded once again, in a very personal way, just why Easter should be marked and celebrated by us all.

My sister and her husband live in NC with three of the most amazing nieces and nephews you've ever met. (I know one of you just said, "She said three!" One niece; two nephews - is that better? Smile.) Anyway, they have been visiting various churches in their area for the past few weeks so the two youngest prefer to stay with them in service instead of going to children's church. Not a problem except that yesterday the church they visited was having their Easter production.

Now this is a really large church just outside Charlotte and they do things big - really BIG. My sister said the presentation was incredible. (And she has been involved with all types of Easter musicals. Still, she was impressed; so you know it was good stuff.) It was apparent that great effort had gone in to the writing, staging, rehearsing, set design, solo selection.....well, every detail was well covered. They were glad they had chosen to attend there that day.

But when they got home, there was an even greater moment of delight coming. Robbie, the amazing six year old nephew, made an announcement. "I want to ask Jesus to come into my heart." Simply, without any pretense, no fanfare - "I get it. I understand that Jesus died for my sins. I want to ask Him to come into my heart."

Tears come to my eyes as I write this. Yes, I'm thrilled about my precious nephew coming to know Jesus for himself. He has made the transition from hearing about the Jesus that Mom and Dad serve to his own personal relationship.

I'm also thrilled for each of us who go to such lengths to mark Easter - Resurrection Sunday. Robbie has now reminded us all about the wonder of the Gospel message. None of the music or drama at yesterday's presentation was intentionally geared for a six year old to understand it or be impacted. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. Last winter when the music pastor selected that drama, he had moms, dads, single parents, young adults in mind - that is the audience he's responsible for.

But God designed the Gospel so that even the most elaborate presentation can not cloud the truth for even the most simple heart. God loves us; Jesus died for us; He wants a relationship with us! End of story. (Or I should say, beginning of story. Smile.)

I'm really amazed by the wonder and elegance of God's ability to reach both the simple and the wise with His message. It is for us ALL!

Vonnie,Chris and Seth did a great thing seven years ago when they opened their hearts and their home to become a foster family. In God's timing and plan, He sent several children to live with them but eventually Rosie and Robbie were the two they were able to adopt. The lives of those two were put on a brand new path and that was a wonderful thing.

But yesterday marked the culmination of hoped for change. Robbie listened to a presentation designed to draw adults to the cross and he understood for himself that we ALL need a Savior.

Now, given his skills set, Robbie will probably be a major league pitcher some day - not a preacher. But he has certainly delivered an eloquent message to all of us. "A little child shall lead them."

Be blessed this week as together we remember the sacrifice, the sorrow and the joy of our salvation. Ah, the wonder of it all!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Don't you hate it when you KNOW not to do something but you do it anyway?! I'm not talking about the four-alarm kind of warnings with lights flashing and sirens blaring - we all at least slow down for those. No, this is the more frequent one-alarm kind of warning with only a little whisper in our sub-conscious that calmly suggests, "This may not be such a good idea. Better gather some more information before you do this." (Notice not even one exclamation mark is needed to punctuate these subtle thoughts.)

Well, I DO know better and I did it anyway!

(Hopefully I've caught your attention now. Mr. Calbert, senior English, would be pleased.) Oh, you really want to know what the foolish deed was?

Before I tell you, it's important that you know this - I don't do well with medicines of almost any sort. Two extra strength Tylenol can knock me out for twelve hours and that is no exaggeration; just ask any of my family. You should see me on a full dose of Nyquil; it's pretty funny stuff!

Yesterday I spent the entire day hurting pretty badly from lots of muscle tension. (Can't imagine what THAT was from. Smile.) And by the time we got home I was already hoping it was time to go to bed. Frank and I ate a bite of dinner, did a couple of chore-type things and started moving toward that highly anticipated hour of bedtime; at least I was sure looking forward to it. Every part of my body seemed to be aching.

Suddenly I had a brilliant idea! (Now an exclamation point is needed.) What if I were to take one of those generic muscle relaxers the dentist had given to him for pain on Tuesday? It seemed to work quite well for Frank that evening; he slept like a baby. He talked of feeling relaxed, worry-free, euphoric if you will. (Okay, so now I'm exaggerating; you could tell couldn't you?)

Frank and I discussed it briefly and the decision was made. The pill looked rather large but I wanted to sleep like a baby; be relaxed; euphoric. So I took it. The whole pill. Usually I would pause and consider breaking it in half because I am well acquainted with my history of medicinal response. But not this time, Buddy. I threw caution to the wind and took that whole pill, popped it in my mouth without restraint, chased it with half a glass of water and (at Frank's urging) a slice of bread.

I was asleep before the normal person could count to ten and did indeed sleep deeply.

But when I woke up this morning - whoa, Nellie!

Every time I tried to focus my eyes, it seemed the room was swimming. I fumbled around on the nightstand and finally located my glasses but getting my feet into bedroom slippers seemed an impossible task! The distance from our bed to the bathroom has never been farther. This was made more difficult by the fact that I was traveling in a definite zigzag pattern! (Never mind the concentration it took to make certain I was centered on the all-important seat in that room. Smile.)

I made it in to the living room, sat down on the love seat and promptly fell over sideways. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I was startled to discover that we now have two front doors. (You can't make this stuff up!)

Fortunately, today is our "no office time" day so Frank is here with me. Gracie hasn't left my side since I stumbled out of the bathroom. Dogs know when their masters are in trouble. She keeps looking up at me with that little Elvis lip as if to say, "Are you drunk?!"

It's been almost fourteen hours now since I ignored that little internal whisper. Hopefully I'll be back to normal soon. If I've written anything embarrassing today, please be kind and just erase it. I'll be happy to return the favor for you some day! And rest assured - I will NOT be taking anything stronger than Aleve for muscle pain any time soon!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

As I sit here this morning, I'm eager to write because I've missed "talking" with you the past few days. (I guess that's the appropriate phrasing with internet friends.) But so much has taken place that I find my thoughts fluttering around and a little hard to corral. (That's not a bad sign is it?! It seems I can see all my mental health professional friends shaking their heads, clucking their tongues and whispering, "We knew it was just a matter of time." lol) Fortunately, I think this can be cured with a couple of days resting; which we ARE doing by the way.

The anniversary celebrations are completed! The meals were served and cleaned up; the gifts of remembrance were dispersed; applause was liberal; hugs were numerous; tears abundant; laughter heartfelt; and joy flooded every aspect. Robin summed it up well, "Resplendent!" (Smile.) My sentiment exactly.

Doug Clay, our special guest speaker, demonstrated what one hopes to find in every "national leader". No pretense; just genuine interest in our congregation and in us as pastors. He was ready and willing to speak into our lives from the moment we first met for breakfast. And once he saw we wanted input, he continued to offer words of encouragement and instruction right through coffee after the final meal. What a blessing!

The former pastors were blessed to see that their service at Garden Grove Church did indeed matter! We all wonder that when we are in the middle of doing whatever we feel "called" to do. And the founding families that are still part of our congregation (there are four of them) were honored for their faithfulness as well. Of course, we had to insist that they stand still long enough for us to honor them. They were all busy doing what they've always done - working.

Frank had great advice for the team on Saturday morning. "We've worked very hard to see this weekend go smoothly. Now stop fretting and let yourselves enjoy it!" So, we did. (Well, I had to remind myself a couple of times. Like when the floating candles from CA kept going out every time someone accidentally bumped a table. And when it felt that the main course was delayed; I resisted the urge to get up and help serve in order to speed things along. And when the soloist's music didn't immediately start and...... Aren't you proud of my perfectionist self? lol)

All in all it really was a lovely weekend. Our foremost prayer was certainly answered; the Lord was honored and people left feeling appreciated. Can't ask for more than that!

And we did endeavor to apply Frank's wisdom and allow ourselves to truly savor all that was going on. Isn't it interesting how often we can come to the conclusion of something we've spent months looking forward to and wake up only to realize, we missed the whole thing?!

I found myself doing that when the girls were just babies. I didn't realize how quickly it all passes and I spent all my energies trying to make sure everything was "completed" each day. My to do list was priority one - not the little girls that were growing up before my eyes. It was that way with my wedding, too. Months of planning, organizing, dreaming. And suddenly there I was walking down the aisle! I had to make a conscious effort to stop running the mental list and just focus on drinking in the ceremony.

In reality, the mission is never actually complete! Even on days when I meticulously check off every item, the list for tomorrow is already being formed. And if I'm not careful, I can rush through life and never really live.

Wouldn't it have been a terrible shame if I had gone to all the effort of helping plan this celebration, diligently pouring over every detail, carefully crossing every "t" dotting every "i"; then stood with the caterer in the kitchen while the banquet progressed in the auditorium?

Earlier this morning, I read a wonderful verse in Ps. 66:12 "....we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."

Maybe you too have been going through fire and deep waters of difficulty. But I can assure you that the Lord provides rest areas along the way! Be careful that you don't miss the opportunity to savor the "place of abundance" He has provided. It's kinda like the rest stops along the interstate. Just because I choose not to pull in there and get out to walk around for a while doesn't mean they aren't available.

This journey is rather long. So I encourage you this morning to intentionally watch for the rest stop ahead, pull off for a moment and enjoy. Who knows, maybe we'll run in to each other there!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Going Green

The post this morning is not for the squeamish or faint of heart! I have a story to tell that may cause you to want to look away. But the full account must be recorded; so you determine whether or not to click out at this point.

If you have been reading, you are aware that we have a rather big event coming up this week-end. We are celebrating God's faithfulness to this congregation for the past twenty-five years. And if you have ever been involved in the planning of such celebrations you know what a mammoth undertaking they can be. Our entire team has been working hard for months and we are almost there.

This also happens to be the week for "preview days" at Southeastern University which is near our home. So dear, life-time friends from PA flew in last night with two of their daughters in order to explore the possibility of choosing SEU for their future. We are excited to have them staying with us but it also meant that they would be opening my refrigerator.

Now I've already confessed that house-keeping is NOT my strongest gift. In fact, if it weren't a team effort around here we'd be in real trouble. Don't get me wrong. My living room is usually presentable and I learned long ago that if the dishwasher is full, the oven is a perfectly acceptable temporary hiding place for dirty dishes. (Only do not forget that you've utilized that tactic! The story behind that is a whole 'nother post. Smile.)

So, if you're near here and find a car in our driveway, it's okay to knock on the door and visit a while. But never, ever under any circumstances are you invited to open my refrigerator if I did not have prior notice of your visit.

Here's why...........

For many years, we were a home-school family. And in an effort to advance the cause of science and the necessary experiments that enhance learning I have many times offered the use of my own kitchen appliances for said experimentation. (Which is a fancy way of saying what you have surely already guessed.)


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is the naked truth! In our home there is a refrigerator that regularly contains left-over boxes which we have had to start "DATING" in order to know when they came to reside on the top shelf. I have been guilty of keeping condiments up to six months past their "best if used by" date! Many times, there are unidentifiable bits of meat or seriously wilted produce occupying space. And don't even ask me how long the pickle relish has been in there!

Consequently, when we hustled around getting the house ready yesterday morning before leaving for the office, my primary task was cleaning out the refrigerator. And as was indicated by the title, I discovered that we were indeed "going green". Or, should I say, the cream cheese container I pulled from the back corner of the second shelf was going green. (I tried to warn you!)

Oh, the embarrassment! I took off the lid and yelled that deep cry of all women who discover something gross, "Eeeewwwwhhhh!" (You thought you heard something strange yesterday morning, didn't you? Yep, that was me discovering the latest science experiment growing in our private laboratory.)

I immediately tossed the entire container into the trash can - which was sitting conveniently close to the refrigerator door for this very reason. And I was suddenly very thankful! Thankful that even though my life is crazy-busy right now, I had enough sense to pause; take time to clean out said refrigerator; thereby making the gruesome discovery of the green cream cheese myself so it could be properly disposed of before my dear guests were subjected to the uncovering of such ickiness. (Run-on sentence, I know. But totally necessary, don't you think?)

So, why in heaven's name would I "out" myself to all of you dear readers?

Because I was reminded immediately why our quiet time is so important on a daily basis. There are things incubating in each of our lives that need to be discarded before difficulty "opens the door" to our hearts and those unpleasant things are exposed. I would much rather allow the Lord to correct me in private - point out something that should have already been tossed, help me get rid of it, clean that spot. Than to rush on into the day and have the "nastiness of my human nature" discovered by others. Whew!

Yep, we were going green at our house. But thanks to "Gladbags" and some "409 Cleanser" our dear friends will be spared the horror. And I will be spared the embarrassment of being exposed. Now I can offer bagels with confidence and a brand new container of cream cheese!

Did you just remember that you might want to check some expiration dates yourself? Smile!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Don't you love pleasant surprises?!

Sunday morning we were on the receiving end of a great surprise. I was standing in Frank's office getting ready for our team meeting when in walked Joy (our middle daughter), then John (our amazing son-in-law) which is totally normal. Then came the surprise - John's mom (Linda) and John's dad (also John). It was such a shock to see them standing there that it really took my brain a minute to compute.

John's parents live in Poughkeepsie, NY (hope I got close to the proper spelling on that) and as you know, that is a really long way from Winter Haven, FL. So they don't ever just "drop by" to enjoy church with us. Much squealing ensued (on my part); thankfully Frank stayed poised and greeted them warmly but with a measure of decorum. That way we know they won't be concerned about the future grandchildren being around the "other" grandparents (that would be us.)

Actually, John and Linda Schreck - yes, that really is their last name and she is a children's pastor- are an answer to many years of prayer. Young mom's, you shouldn't feel foolish at all for praying now over the future spouse of your children. Pray for their extended families too. When Joy and John decided to get married, we were delighted to discover that his family were also Christians who had endeavored to rear a Godly young man. So, their wedding truly was a celebration of two families coming together.

To quote the immortal philosopher - Sally Field, "We like each other. We really, really like each other!"

So after church, the Schrecks called other friends from NY who have moved here to be near grandchildren (not a bad idea, Linda) and we all invaded a local restaurant. The hostess wisely seated us away from the main dining area because we were already so loud in the lobby.

Isn't it annoying when a group of people think they are the only ones in the restaurant and they laugh loudly, talk across one another loudly, even seem to order loudly?! Goodness!! Well, yesterday, we were that group of people. Not that any of the other guests asked to be moved elsewhere. But I did notice that as the tables around us cleared out, the hostess was a bit slow to reseat them. Guess we were a little louder than we thought! Smile.

The really neat thing was that while Linda and John's surprise visit (their flight back to NY from Ft. Lauderdale had been canceled so they rented a car and scooted up to Winter Haven) was a delight to us, it really was a divine appointment of sorts.

Linda's friend moved down here several months ago and in the midst of all the drama involved in relocating one's life, she also began to experience some severe health problems. So yesterday Linda and I were able to step off to the side at one point and pray together with her dear friend. And Linda was able to lavish her with generous hugs and reassuring smiles throughout the meal.

Before parting ways, I looked at the friend and said, "Wow, how special are you?! The Lord knew you really needed an extra boost right now so He allowed Kennedy Airport to close up just long enough for John and Linda to swing by with some "NY family love" for you. I'd say you must be one of His favorites!" She smiled and nodded with big tears in her eyes.

Truth is, we're all His favorites. I'm not sure how He manages that but I'm certainly glad He does. It's just our part to watch for the special moments He sends our way that say, "I love you. I hear your whispered prayers. I'm with you." Pleasant surprises - what a gift!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Very Bad Day!

Yesterday was a "very bad, terrible, nasty, horrible, oh-my-goodness, hope-I-never-have-to-experience-another-one-like-this" kind of day. Yep, it really was just that bad. (It seems that I can almost hear the collective, "Awwww, what happened?" And I appreciate your concern, truly!)

Since you asked, I'll give you the highlights. At 9:50, I was traveling north on Hwy. 17 moving toward a previously scheduled appointment. At approximately 9:57, I arrived at said destination and began walking toward the banquet facility where I was to meet our youth pastor in order to discuss plans for sound and lighting. At exactly 10:00..............(just kidding. I always wondered what it must be like to write for a detective show. Not as much fun as I thought.)

Anyway, basically what happened is this. Around ten-thirty yesterday morning, I discovered that the venue we had selected last January for our upcoming anniversary celebration was probably a no-go. Ten short days before people begin arriving from as far away as MO and TN, I find out that there is a DEFINITE problem with our "contract". I am choosing to spare you the horrid details.

But all in a matter of five short hours: my insides turned to jello as I reread the contract with new perspective and saw that their wording did not mean what our team had interpreted it to mean; I had to call in reinforcements to join me in meeting the event planner; I had to pull it together and lead an intense verbal confrontation (which I hate doing just as much as you do);had to make calls taking responsibility for the mistake; had to make several quick decisions (which I also do not like doing); and finally settled on a totally different venue!

I know that at this point in the post I'm supposed to say something cute, quirky, encouraging; but sometimes those of us who are eternal optimists get on our OWN nerves! (Okay, so that made even me smile.)

It really was a pretty bad day and I learned a lesson that I will share many times in the coming years. Hopefully I can help others avoid the agony, embarrassment and frustration I encountered throughout the day. It was very much like being at the ocean facing the shore when suddenly a huge wave catches you from behind by surprise. One minute you're standing enjoying the sunshine and the next minute you're tumbling in swirling water and don't know which way to push your feet in order to find solid ground.

The good news is this: we lived to tell about it; deeper bonds were formed with the ladies I work with and our team (who jumped in with assistance and encouragement); and I'm hopefully a little smarter this morning than I was yesterday morning.

Kinda funny - when I got up early this morning it was raining hard and we have an eighty per cent chance of rain until tonight; there is no sun coming out today at all. (You know, the theme song of all eternal optimists - "The sun'll come out tomorrow......." Totally ironic! Smile.)

Oh well, it's good to remember that "it came to pass." That's actually one of my favorite promises in the Bible. It's kind of like my life preserver when times are tough. No trouble or difficulty stays forever. Life moves on; things change. Eventually it all comes to pass. (Feel free to use that floatie any time you'd like.)

Time to get moving and see what today holds. One thing is for sure, I have a ninety per cent chance that it will be better than yesterday! Smile.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

I absolutely LOVE sunrises and sunsets! (Someday I'll own a Thomas Kincade painting because as "the painter of light" he develops those the best of anyone I've ever seen.)

Frank and I were on our way to a board meeting last night and at 6:20, the sky here in Winter Haven literally exploded with color! It was absolutely incredible. Huge swaths of pink, salmon, purple, blue peeking through, swirls of white. It was truly phenomenal.

I had to stop on the sidewalk and stand for a moment just drinking it in. (Frank is a gracious man. He stood with me while I had my "moment" lest I get distracted and fall off the curb.)

I've been fascinated by the fabulous colors of evenings and early mornings since I was a little girl. North FL is very flat; you can see the edge of forever from your front porch. So getting the full effect of an especially resplendent (there's my word again - smile) sunset was possible most evenings. I would often stand around until the very last bit of color faded away. It meant swatting mosquitoes and bearing the oppressive heat; but for my little girl heart, watching the sky do its magic was well worth the price.

When we lived in the mountains of NC there was only one tiny spot in our house from which sunsets could be seen. Our little home sat at an odd angle and there was a window on the door leading out of our kitchen that afforded a view of the evening painting but only if you held your head just right. And it seemed that the colors were most vibrant in the winter there.

On many cold winter nights, I would excitedly call the girls to our kitchen where I would proceed to hold them up one by one to catch a glimpse of beauty before it could fade away. They, just like their dad, would indulge me with comments like "Uh huh. That's pretty, Mommy." And occasionally I would even get a "Wow!" But I don't know if I fully communicated exactly why this is such a fascination for me.

You see, I think of sunrises and sunsets as a "kiss" from heaven. It's like that little peck you give your spouse just before you leave or the quick "hi-honey-I'm-home" kiss. Serious smooching is reserved for other times but quick kisses serve the purpose of saying, "I really do think of you all the time and this is just to remind you of that fact."

And so it is with the colors of early morning and late evening. They are visible for us only briefly but they are incredibly powerful in their intensity. I drink them in and they refresh my soul because for me they are God's intentional attempt to say, "I'm thinking of you all the time; just wanted to remind you of that!" Whew, what a kiss for all the world.

It reminds me of the scripture that says, "The heavens declare your wonder!"

This evening, if it isn't cloudy where you live, step outside for a moment and enjoy a kiss from heaven. He really is thinking of us all the time! Wow!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hooray for Hollywood! Really?

I suppose that one of the purposes of blogging is to be brave enough to reveal things about ourselves that hopefully others can identify with and thereby form bonds with individuals we haven't met or rarely ever get to see. (Wouldn't it be easier to just pick up the phone? Smile.)

No, because then you could never communicate with anyone under the age of thirty. Their most serious conversations take place via text messaging. I live around people who are able to look me in the eye, listening attentively to every word I'm saying AND text message someone else about an entirely different topic without ever looking down at their phone or failing to respond coherently at the appropriate moment in OUR conversation.


If you ever receive a text message from my phone that is longer than three words, know that I love you immensely because I do NOT love your preferred form of communication. My texting skills are so limited that it can take up to ten minutes for me to find the appropriate keys, accidentally erase them, start over, hit send, scan the "sent message" with a feeling of panic because it's already sent; if I misspelled something and see it now, it's too late for corrections. And for all that effort, what message will I have managed to launch out into cyberspace?

"Thats fine see u soon!"

(Please note my very cool usage of "u" instead of the much longer "you". UmHmm! I thought you'd be impressed. Unfortunately, I have yet to locate the punctuation keys. So I tend to spend long moments contemplating how to say what I want in the shortest possible way avoiding all punctuation except: . ! ? Sigh.)

So, back to the opening of this post - revealing things about ourselves.

This morning I feel it important to confess that I have a few guilty pleasures and one of them is watching the Oscars Awards Ceremony. Whew, that's a big card I just handed to you, hold it carefully. (Borrowed that phrase from a friend. Rather descriptive, don't you think?)

Yes, of course, I keep the remote control handy in case of commentary that starts getting inappropriate or clothing that embarrasses me. (Did y0u see the dress Mariah Carey was "wearing"?) But I do watch at least some of the show almost every year.

My mom loved movie stars and movies; although she never attended any as an adult. She could name every star from her growing up years and regale you with stories about their marriages, children and starring roles. I started out watching the Oscars with her. Sweet memory!

Then several years ago, I saw a commentary which went behind the scenes and revealed exactly what has to happen to all those beautiful women on the red carpet in order for them to stand there looking so exquisite. Let me tell you, after learning about all the preparatory rituals and all the horrid items of tortuous foundational clothing those women must endure I came away with a whole new appreciation for the poor dears.

We use duct tape and chicken wire for entirely different reasons here in the South!

Their pained expression is NOT because they are irritated with the reporter interviewing them. It's because they can hardly breathe, their feet are already screaming, portions of their anatomy are contorted and pinched in ways we would think impossible. And they know that they must spend the next five hours of their lives in this condition while continually smiling lest the camera catch them unawares. Whew!

Makes me thankful that my worst constrictions result from industrial-strength, control top panty-hose which I utilize sparingly. How about you?!

Anyway, as I watched for a while last night, I caught myself wondering about the real people behind the beautiful faces. Were they proud, nervous, lonely, fearful, envious, empty? Because the reality is, they all will wake up at some point today. The make-up artists will be gone. There won't be any designers clamoring for their attention. The cameras will be pointed in a different direction. All the reporters will be busy with a new assignment.

It's just the star and their mirror.

And in that moment, they become just like you and me. People wondering who we really are. People with real relationships that need to be nurtured and no make-up in the world that can remove the flaws of a damaged one. People with hopes, dreams, sorrows and disappointments all rolled together to form a life.

We are all just people reaching for the very same things: family, health, security, a place to belong. Hmmmmm, reminds me why we work so hard at making sure everyone knows about the love Jesus offers. That is REAL help; and no camouflage required in that relationship.

C u soon -

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Simple Thought

I don't have a full-length post to share this morning. But I came across this wonderful scripture earlier that gave me encouragement with its simplicity.

Proverbs 10:28a. "The prospect of the righteous is joy."

Actually, it gave me so much to ponder that I thought I would just pass it on to you - in case you need a simple and encouraging ponder point today for yourself.

That's all - hope your day is blessed!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Teamwork - the Best Work

Thanks to each of you who takes time to read this! As I'm starting to get feed-back it is really encouraging and I have to discipline myself to avoid being on here all the time. Getting to write is the reward now for getting my work done. It's like I see the young moms who say "That's exactly how I felt." or "Thanks, I'm starting a tradition at our house too." And others who let me know that a central thought - "stayed with me all day long." (I didn't really know the appropriate punctuation for that sentence. But I feel sure that Mr. Calbert, my high school English teacher, does NOT read this blog so I'm okay.)

Anyway, thanks for taking time to read and to let me know what encourages you!

You remember all that deliciously leisurely Friday morning stuff I wrote about last week? Well, this week......not so much!!

Later this month, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Garden Grove Church. And while we've really endeavored to scale back our celebration plans (we opted to drop the fireworks display and skydiving exhibition packages) there is still much to be done.

Frank boldly contacted the national office of the Assemblies of God and invited Dr. George Wood our General Superintendent ( that would be the "head honcho" for those of you unfamiliar with the A/G) to our guest for the week-end.

Now, this man receives literally hundreds of invitations to preach every single week because he is an outstanding leader and a tremendous preacher. We knew the chances of him coming were slim. But Frank figured hey, we're offering him an excuse to come to sunny Florida in March while snow is billowing, freezing wind is whipping and fingertips are falling off in central Missouri.

Unfortunately, he was already scheduled. BUT our national treasurer, Rev. Doug Clay who is ALSO a phenomenal preacher IS coming! WONDERFUL! (Okay, that's enough on the capital letters for a while. If you will read those with extra emphasis, you will hear my little southern self and my genuine excitement.)

So, all that extra information brings me to the crux of today's article. We've been meeting and planning and scrambling and trying to get things ready since last October in order to avoid all out panic when the time for celebration actually arrives. Great plan - not really happening!

You know how it is, no matter how well you plan; no matter how many to-do lists you meticulously prepare and joyfully check off; no matter how many times you say, "in order to avoid any rush"......when it actually comes time to execute the event - THERE IS MAYHEM!!!!!!!

(Yes, I know I said no more caps but this is an all caps morning. My sister used to regularly tell me, "Sheri, your life gives me heartburn!" Hmmmm.)

Enter - the blessing of team!

Now, Frank and I work with amazing teams of people. Our ministry team is young (because we really need their energy, ideas and enthusiasm.) Amanda, John and Joy, Kristin - they are all extremely hard workers who more than carry their weight. And are worth more than their weight in gold to us and to our church. (No, pastor friends. You may NOT offer them a job at your church!)

Our leadership team is wise. Three of the four families on that team are actually charter members of GGC and we have found them to be reliable and trustworthy in every way. They too are hard workers and right there at every turn.

Yesterday was a prime example of how this crew functions. Everyone was running in high gear. Amanda was creating a new brochure, covering the office, finishing her sermon for Harbour. John was installing new machinery, recording giving statements, unfreezing my frozen computer. Joy was using free moments at work to follow-up on students. Frank was working on his sermon, taking calls, raising money for a special surprise related to the anniversary.

We needed back-up.

Ed showed up to install windows with blinds in our baby nursery. Meagan came in to answer phones and prepare service orders. Kristin met Bill at the paint store to purchase paint for updating the toddler room. (Bill couldn't leave that to an amateur so he came over to help for "just a few minutes" which turned into a couple of hours.) Christy, who we didn't even know liked to paint, showed up just in time to outline our mural. Leigh flew in from work and started creating her magic.

And where was Sheri in the midst of all this excitement you may ask? It felt like I should be in the corner rocking back and forth pulling on my right eyebrow. (Actually, Amanda caught me one day this week pulling on both eyebrows at the same time. Whew!)

Needless to say, I was once again being reminded of the blessing of team!

None of us does well functioning as the "Lone Ranger". We weren't created to journey alone. When I try to do things on my own, I end up exhausted and frustrated (which is really just a polite way to say MAD). And for many years, I tried to just carry on; get the job done; focus on the task at hand; suffer in silence.

The problem here is that very few of us ever "suffer in silence". Can I get an amen on that?!

If we will allow them, there are good people all around us who want to help. Caution: they will not do it the exact way you would! (Boy, there's an entire track to follow with that, isn't there?)
But be brave enough to back up and let them help. You will probably be surprised by the great ideas they bring to the table.

(To the young mom readers I confess. Accepting help was especially difficult for me when the girls were little because I already felt so inadequate for the task of rearing productive, emotionally healthy human beings. Take the help! Your husband and your children will thank you. Smile.)

And besides, there is special blessing to be found in working as a team. Mom used to say, "Sorrow divided! Joy multiplied!"

If you can get away, come on down and join us that week-end. You can walk around and say with us, "Look what a team can do!" Gotta run - hope your day is blessed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Power of Paper Plates

When I woke up rather early this morning, I was excited about being able to write this post for you all. (Actually, while I certainly HOPE this blog benefits you dear readers it is serving as a very real outlet for me right now. Communicating for the purpose of encouraging is one of my passions. And this spring instead of my usual travels, I've needed to focus on projects at church and home - twenty-fifth anniversary; nursery renovation; fifth annual spring tea; major surgeries for two daughters; etc. Enter internet! So, thanks for reading.)

One of my earlier posts was about the "trauma" of dining alone. (One friend responded by saying that dining alone was really a treat for her; don't you love being part of the diverse body of Christ? There is an entire, wonderful train of thought on this topic that threatens to derail me this very moment but I must resist and stay focused!! LOL)


So, last night we were able to have one of our routine, not-so-special, nothing-out-of- the-ordinary, average, run-of-the-mill family dinners. Which I really consider: ABSOLUTELY RESPLENDENT! (Yes, I am aware that "resplendent" isn't the most appropriate adjective to use here; but it happens to be one of my favorite words and I regularly look for opportunities to use it even if in less than optimal moments like now. Smile.) Back to the dinner.

You must understand that while I was growing up, my mom unintentionally wove a tradition deep into the fabric of my life. Until I was twelve year old, my dad worked at Monsanto, a factory in Pensacola. He worked the day shift and came home every afternoon at 4:30. Because we usually had some activity to attend at church that night and because my dad was a hard worker who was also very skinny, dinner needed to be on the table when he walked in the door.

The menu varied but in some form most always consisted of: one meat, two vegetables, a starch and some type of home made bread. "Loaf" bread (you know, Sunbeam or Wonderbread) was not considered "bread" at our table. Thank heavens Frank doesn't feel that way! Even after Dad and Mom went into full time pastoral ministry, we ate dinner all together almost every evening.

Fast forward several years to 1979 when Frank and I began sharing our evening meal as husband and wife. Sometimes it was with friends but most often just he and I, forming our own little family tradition. A high chair was added, then a booster seat and a high chair, then two boosters and a high chair.

By this time, my young husband was very focused on his work and ministry. Breaking away in the evenings to come home and eat dinner took real effort. And finally we discovered that if we didn't make it a priority, it wouldn't happen at all. So, we prayed over the matter (because it was so very important to me) and came to some more reasonable expectations.

Very often, I would give him a quick call about twenty minutes before the food was ready to serve. He would dash home, slide into his seat at the head of the table, ask grace, begin to eat and attentively listen to four women offer random comments on their days (which often meant trying to decipher baby-jabber because no woman wants to be left out of the conversation!) Thirty minutes later he would "reseat" whoever had climbed into his lap (on especially tough days that was ME), give everyone a quick kiss bye, and hurry back to the office.

The meal itself was irrelevant. The time was extremely short. The point was that we made an effort to CONNECT each day.

Fast forward another thirty years. Our lives are totally different now and one would expect that meals together as a family of six adults (yes, we've added a wonderful son-in-law) would only take place Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July. But apparently at some point during those hurried moments of less than memorable menu selections, a thread from the "family dinner" spool caught in the loom which was weaving the tapestry of our daughters' lives. And family dinner has became important to them as well.

As crazy as our schedules are, they asked that everyone make an effort to reserve Monday nights as often as possible, for coming together and connecting. It is indeed RESPLENDENT!

Last night was the first time in a while that we were all able to be together. But each one came without guilt, The meal itself was mediocre at best (my roast was entirely too dry and we had to settle for canned corn instead of fresh or frozen). But there were copious amounts of conversation, we drank deeply of one another's company, laughter added an incredible fragrance and a little teasing was just the seasoning we needed to complete a true feast.

I've had the pleasure of dining in some fabulous restaurants, in foreign countries, even with a few dignitaries. But those opportunities pale in comparison to sitting at my own table surrounded by the true treasure of my life, eating pizza off of paper plates and drinking sweet tea from plastic cups.

I'm so thankful that we made the choice years ago to assign value to the task of connecting on a regular basis as a family. And if the opportunity is yours, I encourage you to do the same.

Don't worry about the menu, the location, the time, or even the color palette. I absolve you from all guilt on those matters. (Can I do that as a protestant pastor's wife?) Just focus on consistent connection- once a day, once a week, once a month; whenever it's possible for you. Everything else will fall into place. And you too will begin to weave a beautiful family "tradition" that will probably look different from that of everyone else. But it will eventually have great significance.

Haven't you seen the label on some clothes, "The variations in the pattern of this fabric are simply indications of the care given to produce a one of a kind garment and in no way should be considered a flaw." (Gotta love advertisers!)

Savor the moment - Bon Appetite!