Friday, April 30, 2010


"Even in laughter the heart may ache..." that's from Proverbs 14:13. And it is so very true in my life right now. I guess any time we tap raw, deep emotion we will discover that tears and laughter inhabit the same space. Such a paradox.

It has been a great delight to read all your comments on FB. (I'm working on making the comments section on the blog more user friendly; just not right now. Smile.) And the comments were especially intense this morning because of news I received. It is absolutely amazing how connected we are and don't even realize it.

My friend Susan (whose family recently returned to PA to pastor) wrote to tell me an amazing story. Her friend, Gloria, had asked Susan to join her in picking up a guest speaker they had coming in for their retreat. All three ladies were to go to dinner and then on to the opening service. Unfortunately, 20 minutes before they were to leave, something came up and Susan had to cancel. Gloria went on to the airport alone, picked up the speaker (Sandra) and you know the rest of the story.

Susan would have been in that fatal crash with them.

I have no words for the mysteries of God. They are truly unfathomable. (Please excuse the King James - it just suits this.) He takes one and leaves another. Gloria and Sandra's families are left to grieve; Susan's family is left in awe and wonder, marking the mercy. No one questioning God - just all wondering at His ways.

Then there was the message from a precious young friend of mine who leads worship for a Presbyterian church in Tampa. She too has experienced loss and she wrote to me quoting from my blog on sunrises. "Sometimes it's hard to remember that we will see the beautiful colors again 'tomorrow'. But we will," she said. "That is our promise." (Don't you just hate when someone preaches to you using your own words?! Smile.)

She went on to say that although she did not know Sandra, she considers herself a "remnant" of Sandra's ministry because of the fact that I've spoken into her life. (Her words, not mine.) But isn't that a powerful thought? Our "influence" reaches so much farther than we can imagine; touching people we may never meet!

Her comment caused me to wander down a pathway, wondering just what "influence" are we having in this world while we're privileged to be here? It's like a pebble that is tossed into a pond. The ripples go out so much farther than just the small impact point of the actual pebble.

And so it is with our lives. We are connected in ways we can not even imagine. The choices we make: to forgive, to hold bitterness, to be joyful, to be self-focused, to put others first.....they all have an impact that reaches far beyond ourselves. Sandra's life choices affected a young minister she never met because she affected me.

So I suppose that the real question of importance for this Friday morning is this, what "ripples of influence" is MY life sending out, impacting the lives of people I may never meet? In a time when so much seems out of control, I remember that Chuck Swindoll says the only thing we really can control is our attitudes.

Perhaps we would all do well to pause before we toss a "pebble of consequence"- will this produce ripples of selfishness or joy, forgiveness or bitterness, encouragement or heartache? We prefer to think that our words and actions affect only "me," no big deal. Not so! Hmmm.

We've all heard at some point the thought that the length of our lives is less important than the living of our lives. My dear Sandra packed a lot of "living" into her short 54 years! And because she chose well, her ripples of influence will reach far beyond her days here on earth. I want to step up to the challenge of living and choosing well; don't you?

God, grant that we may all live, cry and laugh in rich measure; doing our best to honor You completely while we yet have breath! Selah.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The sunrise this morning had to be an after-thought. I needed to be on the road before it rose in order to not rush to Orlando International.

It's so funny how intuitive pets are. Bella and Gracie followed us around like a couple of shadows from the time our feet first hit the floor at 5 AM. They immediately sensed that the atmosphere was different. (Yes, I can hear all of you who are non-pet loving with your skepticism declaring, "The silly dogs saw the suitcases and that's all." Well, maybe. But the comfort that their adoring faces offered this morning was well worth any inconveniences they bring.)

Frank and I allowed ourselves ten minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee and a bit of "Beth Moore" before jumping up to get going. Those short moments, snuggled next to him also gave me a safe place for my first "cry" of the day. We've always been believers that tears are cleansing for the heart. Mine should just about be scrubbed clean by now.

We made Orlando in time and I was honored to be "randomly selected for an additional security check by the department of homeland security." I'm all about security, especially since one flight this morning has already been diverted to Greensboro, NC for a bomb scare.

But truthfully, it IS a bit demeaning to stand "to the side" positioned like an eagle on some state seal while a perfect stranger runs a wand ALL over you and feels compelled to PAT any area that elicits even the smallest of "beeps" from said wand. My comfort? I wasn't subjected to one of those horrible new non-x-ray x-ray machines that allows someone to scan things no one should ever be subjected to scanning if they are not a medical doctor. Sigh.

I've only been traveling for about three hours and I've made two new friends. (My sister, Vonnie, is sooo not surprised. Smile.) "Karen" from Michigan sat by me on the plane and although I didn't want to talk, (I did have my book out, I carefully avoided making eye contact, I even quickly looked out the window once seated) it was a conversation that we were supposed to have.

Then I grabbed a muffin and coffee when we got to Charlotte. They have the most inviting white rocking chairs all over this airport and I don't always have time to take advantage of them when coming through here. I made a bee-line for a grouping with only two rockers, I purposely pulled one faaaar away from the other, sat down and started sipping coffee and discreetly people-watching.

Within less than five minutes, a young dad with a precious baby boy zeroed-in on the other rocker. THERE WERE FIVE MORE CHAIRS AVAILABLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLUMN!! (The caps are for all those who may think people like myself step into the flow of concourse pedestrian traffic and solicit conversation from perfect strangers. I do not! Smile.)

The baby's name is "Brooklyn". The dad (Brooklyn looks just like him), baby and mom are all headed from St. Louis to Jamaica. I didn't get to meet the mom because they had started their journey at 2:30 in the morning and dad's assignment was to keep Brooklyn awake until they could get on the next flight which would be three hours long. That's when you really want an eight month old to take a nap! (No, that was not unearthed in an hour long visit; he only sat there about ten minutes and volunteered all that information, I promise.)

Oddly, both of these new acquaintances took time to say proper good-byes. To wish me well on the next leg of my journey. Karen offered condolences. Brooklyn even graced me with a big farewell smile and energetic wave.

I'm acutely aware this morning that we all need one another. And if we are blessed to know Christ, we are the light that this frightened world is going to be drawn toward more and more.

Father, help us to remember that "divine appointments" are all around us. Keep us alert; no one is guaranteed tomorrow. And this journey is shorter than we may suppose.

Thank you, friends, for your prayers for the days ahead. God's grace will be abundant I'm sure!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Oh, the comfort to be found in sorrows shared!

My precious Mom, the original "homespun philosopher", always said that friendship is worth the investment. "With friends to share them, your joys will be multiplied and your sorrows divided." So very true, Mama!

I've spent a lot of time on the phone and reading different things about Sandra over the past two days. It's almost like a collective gasp has gone up all over the country concerning the death of this wonderful lady. She would be shocked to know just how many lives she has impacted! And because Sandra was "Sandra" we all feel the loss in an extremely personal way.

We've already started sharing stories that reveal the truth, "I thought I was the only one she did that for." "You know, that's exactly how she made me feel too."

I didn't get to tell yesterday about the time years ago when Sandra "encouraged" (which actually means: bribed the leadership of) a large church in NC to invite the fledgling (that would have been me) to speak for one of their ladies events.

Since Sandra always noticed everything, she was well acquainted with the fact that I suffer from being "fashion-challenged." So she casually questioned me a couple of weeks before the upcoming event about what I planned to wear. When I told her, she remained very calm on the outside but I now know that an electric jolt probably went all the way through her.

After our meeting concluded, Sandra suddenly needed to go shopping and she really wanted me to go with her. Now, I knew she didn't want me tagging along to give my opinion (our weaknesses should be known to us, that way they are much less embarrassing.) But I was excited to be part of the adventure, so I readily accepted the invitation and hopped into her van with one other lady.

We drove to Fayetteville laughing non-stop and hit the shop of the famous designer, Jacques Penne. (A.K.A. - JC Penny) I strolled around the ladies' dept behind Sandra content to "Oooo and Ahhhh" over the dresses she our other friend were considering.

Several times Sandra said, "Sheri, why don't you look at something to try on?"
"Oh, I'm not here to buy anything. I just wanted to come spend time with you guys." We were pioneer pastors at the time and our clothing budget was non-existent!

They both selected a few things to take to the dressing room and on her way there, Sandra pulled two suits and a dress in my exact size.

"You have to try these on or I'll feel bad for dragging you over here," she insisted. Well, I didn't want to make her feel bad. So I obliged.

As is the custom with most women in dressing rooms, once we had donned our prospective outfits, we would each come out in turn and do the obligatory "twirling" in order for the other shoppers in our party to offer their opinions. (Can you tell that I'm an odd woman and don't really enjoy shopping? Smile.)

In the midst of all the changing and twirling and tugging and........well you get the idea, I came out in the navy suit that Sandra had selected. It fit perfectly! The collar was bright white and the jacket was accented with a front zipper which (I was told) was the "must have" fashion item for that spring.

"Oh, Sheri!" Sandra was bubbling. "That will be perfect for when you speak at _____. You have to be dressed fashionably there, Girl. Those ladies will expect it. Yep, this one is perfect!"

We all turned and went back into our dressing rooms.

Now, buying that suit was so far out of the realm of possibility for me that I didn't even stop to register what she was saying. (What did Paul say about learning to be content with much or little? Smile.) I just hung the suit back on the hangers and started pondering what in my current wardrobe might possibly fill the bill.

We were all standing near the register as our other friend was purchasing her dress when suddenly Sandra realized that I wasn't holding the suit.

"Sheri, aren't you going to buy that suit?"

"Well, I'm gonna get home and think about it some more."

In that split second of eye contact, Sandra knew what was really going on and she acted. "Well listen, they won't have this in the right size at your Penny's by the time you can get there. And I've been wanting to get something for you since you came over here to help me last month. I'm going to get this one and send it home with you. No arguing! You really did help me out a lot."

Not only did she bless me, she also saved me from feeling awkward in front of our other friend. Masterful!

I wore the navy suit to the meeting and did indeed feel like a true "fashionista"!

It was some time later while thinking back on Sandra's kindness that I finally realized - she didn't buy one thing for herself! She hadn't needed anything; that entire trip had been for the express purpose of helping me. Such love.

So this morning as I began packing for the trip and stood trying to select just the right dress or suit for her celebration service, I had to smile. I remembered this story and all the other times that I've called to say, "Hey, I'm speaking at_____. You've been there, what should I wear?"

I feel sure that Sandra's robe is a brilliant white. And her crown? It's too big for her to actually wear. There's probably an angel that has been assigned the singular task of carrying it around until she can lay it at the feet of the Master. That kind of thing (displaying crowns) never was her style anyway.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sandra Bass-Palmer

I was a first semester freshman at Southeastern Bible College, walking down the hallway minding my own business when the young lady with big brown eyes called to me, "Hey, can you wait here and open this door for us when we get back?"

Now, it was just seconds until curfew and the excitement level in those eyes spoke of mischief not a prayer-meeting; she sensed my hesitancy.

"It's okay. I'm Sandra Bass! I'm a proctor!"

So, I waited by the door and obediently opened it when she and her roommate came running back in breathless and squealing with laughter. (They had gone out to "roll" the car of a young male ministerial student who had caught the eye of the roommate.) I turned to walk away. They were busy giggling and congratulating themselves; this party didn't need other attenders.

But Sandra noticed and called out, "Hey, thanks! What's your name?"

For me, this was a divine appointment. A friendship was born between the naive, wide-eyed freshman (me) and the popular, vivacious, lover of people (Sandra) that would develop and span decades.

We seldom ate together in the cafeteria - she was an upper class man. We had no classes together - different majors. But our assigned chapel seating placed her almost directly in front of me (Bass-Burke) so we saw each other there. And I was able to watch her worship (singing wasn't really her thing - smile) and I observed her during sermons that obviously impacted her and I watched her giggle at some of the most "inappropriate moments" (Bro. Jones leading songs in monotone as though he were still in Kuala Lumpor).

She would occasionally see me in the hall and invite me into her room; I jumped at the chance. I would sit quietly curled up in the corner on her bed and watch as all manner of ladies came by to visit with Sandra. We were all drawn to her because she made each person feel as though she genuinely cared about us; probably because she did!

Sandra told me that Frank (who was from her home town) would be a much better guy for me to date than the basketball player I was dating. She made me do my first devotion at a hall meeting. She pushed me to apply for the proctor position when she graduated. And when I graduated, she pushed me to apply for a teaching position at the school where she taught.

Sandra was a missionary at heart, in love with Latin America and she soon headed overseas. Her first appointment was in Belgium; then came time with STAR ministries producing TV programing for children all over Latin America; finally NC called her to serve as director of women's ministries.

We loosely stayed in touch during the early years; her official missionary photo gracing each of my refrigerators so I would remember to pray for my friend. And she would always take time to contact me when she was in the states. When she came back to NC, I was thrilled and offered to once again "assist her" in any way needed. That's when our friendship grew even more.

Sandra loved pushing people forward. I've never known anyone else that derived such delight from watching others be pushed into the "limelight" like Sandra did. And that familiar "pushing" started all over again for me.

"I want you to serve on this committee with me, Sheri."
"Prepare a devotion for the next committee meeting."
"Hey, I need you to teach this workshop."
"Sheri, it's time for you to apply for your own license as a minister."
"Open this conference with prayer."
"I can't preach for this conference. I told them to call you."

(Notice the progression? This lady was very good at her game!)

She brought me close enough to watch how she did it; walked with me while I tried; then pushed me out to do it on my own. All along offering genuine encouragement (never useless flattery); creating opportunities for me to stretch; asking the difficult questions that made me examine my own heart; laughing when I laughed; crying when I cried. (When Mom passed away, Sandra was one of the first ones to call. She also had a gift for comforting those who mourn.)

Even when she moved to TX to become women's director for a much larger region, we remained friends. Talking less often but still in contact. She brought me out to speak for two of her early events there. No one knew who I was but she threw caution to the wind and once again provided a stretching experience.

And when she finally found the love of her life (at age fifty) you better know that we threw common sense aside and all five flew to Houston to celebrate the wedding day with Sandra, Mark and five hundred of her other closest friends. (Smile.) Mark is such a fine man that we all wept with joy over God's abundant provision!

So when the unbelievable news came to us on Saturday that Sandra had been killed in a car accident, I once again experienced what it is "....when sorrows like sea-billows roll." (Still this morning, it seems impossible and the tears come like a flood.)

Thankfully, Frank got the news first and was able to tell me in private. He knew this would be hard. I was scheduled to preach Sunday and readily accepted his offer to take my place. But a couple of hours later I thought of what Sandra would say, "Are you kidding me?! You'd better preach!"

And so I did. Not my best, of course. But our precious congregation listened and wrapped their arms around me in this sorrow; knowing that no words were really necessary or sufficient.

I had always found the scripture odd that says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the home-going of his saints." Then I finally read it in a different version, "Costly... is the home-going of his saints."

I think that is much more accurate!

Sandra and Mark were building a home for women who are rescued from sex-trafficking slavery. (Yes, that does go on here in the U.S.) And on Friday she had flown to PA to present the ministry to a church wanting to become involved. As was their habit, she looked at Mark at the Houston airport and said, "I'll be right back."

The pastor's wife was waiting when she arrived in PA a few hours later. Half a mile from the airport, traffic slowed, a box truck didn't - striking the back of their van at full speed, and Sandra opened her eyes to the face of Jesus.

That's what she would have preferred I meet Him while she was in the middle of working for Him.

Another friend has generously offered to pay for a plane ticket. So on Wed. I will once again fly to a celebration for Sandra. Only this time, the weeping will be an expression of deep sorrow and loss. There will be an incredible void in all our lives from the passing of this wonderful woman we knew. And we will come together, all feeling like her dearest friends, finding comfort with our shared hugs and stories remembered.

And even as I write this I can hear Sandra say, "Hey, can you celebrate with me? I'm safely "Home" and it's great up here!" Smile.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunrise Enjoyment Tips

1. Don't be angry that you are awake to see the sun rise.
Frustration over being awake earlier than you intended will definitely inhibit the sunrise enjoyment experience. (Some have reported being completely robbed of said moment due to frustration.) Didn't intend to wake up? Grab a cup of coffee or tea and make the most of this "gift". You may be surprised at just how awesome and refreshing the moment truly is.

2. Purposely scan the horizon from left to right; then from right to left. Now Repeat.
Focusing on one small spot will cause you to totally short-change the majesty of the moment. A sunrise is much like life and must be taken in as a whole. Focusing on only one part can result in dissatisfaction and loss of perspective. (Did you catch the "sermon" app there? Smile.)

3. Choose to SEE the sun rising.
Some mornings I wake while it's still dark. I get all settled in my soft prayer chair with a quilt, a cup of coffee, Bible, journal......and I just don't want to disturb myself because I'm comfortable. We miss some amazing things when comfort becomes our major objective. (Yep, another sermon app. This post is full of them; it's an occupational hazard.)

4. Sunrises are best enjoyed when shared.
I love the stillness that comes with a sunrise; no words are required or sufficient really. I can enjoy the richness all by myself. But when Frank comes out and quietly takes my hand or just sits nearby, a connection takes place that can't be easily explained. We are not meant to experience life alone. Invest in friendship.

5. Mark the incredible variety of colors.
This morning I was treated to: pink, purple, salmon, several blues, a touch of orange and even a momentary streak of red. Marvelous, indeed! Mom often said "Variety is the spice of life." And she usually said it when things were difficult. Hmmm. Diversity is intended to be a blessing, not a curse. Embrace the wonder of each new day being different from all the rest.

6. Don't be sad when the colors disappear; remind yourself that they will reappear tomorrow.
I know some people who literally prefer not to experience anything that's too "wonderful" because they don't want to experience the equal but opposite emotions of "sadness". Totally missing the point! When the season changes, when the babies grow up, when the flower wilts, when the event is over, it's okay. There will be more joy for tomorrow. It won't be exactly the same as today but there will be joy. (Refer back to #5 - variety.)

7. Finally, pay attention to the sheer magnitude of those colors.
The sunrise starts small, just over my neighbor's fence top. (Sometimes I can't wait for it to become visible over her fence, so I stand for the entire performance.) Within just a few moments, the entire eastern half of the sky is awash with magnificent hues. It's like God started with a small paint brush and became so delighted with the effect that He had to reach for a roller or His heart would surely burst. Against the powerful backdrop of that display, my own life seems more manageable. He is God and I am not. Selah.

I've been enjoying sunrises most of my adult life. They always stir me, encourage and nudge me. They remind me that "His mercies are new every morning" and that I should "rise early to praise Him". They offer perspective, balance and a copious quantity of challenge. Where else can you get all that - every single day - in every single corner of the world - for FREE?!!

God, You are incredible! Thank You!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fabulous Friday

Well, boring as it may sound, we have finally arrived at the end of our regular work week. Tomorrow is Friday - our Saturday. And given the fact that on the real Saturday we will be at the church working with our latest outreaches (Angel Food and Flag Football), I'm planning to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of this Friday.

Perhaps I should do a quick aside here and explain these two. Angel Food is an organization that is now nationwide. They are able to make available to anyone a box of first quality food that will feed a family of four for a week. This box contains everything from frozen meats and vegetables to pasta and even some fresh items; all for about a fourth of the market cost.

Our part in this venture? We are the man-power. (Jeanne helps lead our great team.) Orders are taken and paid for in advance of the actual delivery date. The process of delivery begins with "pickup" around 6:00 AM on the prescribed Saturday; that truck arrives at our church around 7:30 AM; a team is waiting to unload and properly divide all the ordered items; more people are needed to actually assist those picking up their boxes from 10:00 to 12:00. Then we clean up and depart.

It's a great ministry to our community; especially given the increasing number of retirees living all around us. These boxes really stretch anyone's food budget. The motto for Angel Food is terrific: "A hand up instead of a hand out." Perhaps our government could study this great organization for some productive ideas. HMMMM.

Then there's flag football. Our church is also blessed to be neighbors with a large number of Muslim families. These families will not allow their children and teens to attend anything inside our building because we are Christian. But we have a marvelous field adjoining our building that our youth discovered to be the perfect size for flag football.

So once a month- October through May- there is a flag football game on that field from 10:00 to noon. And many of the neighborhood fellas wouldn't miss those games for anything. Ingenious, don't you think?!

This May, our youth pastors (John and Joy) are trying something new. We will have a "Flag Football Superbowl"! It will be our first ever evening game; complete with tower lights, hot dogs, cheering and a short presentation of the Gospel. (Do you think that might just catch on with the NFL?) Please pray with us - who knew people could be attracted to Christ through football?

I just did a quick proof-read and realized the real truth of my life. Being involved with people in order to help more people know about Jesus is actually what I enjoy even more than I enjoy Fridays.

Still, even Jesus Himself pulled away occasionally to get quiet and better hear from His Father. So, in addition to looking forward to dinner and a movie with my husband; I'm also looking forward to spending some time with the Father while working in my flower garden tomorrow. And that really is the truth!

One more item. Many of you already know my dear friend, Becky Smith from her blog: "Smithellaneous". She will be having surgery for cancer tomorrow. If you should remember, please offer a prayer for Becky and her family as they walk this difficult road. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I clicked my posting link a few moments ago and through the joys of technology, was accidentally connected to facebook instead. So I took a quick glance at the many comments friends had on their sites (or whatever it's called on FB). One of my "under thirty" friends recently suggested that perhaps FB is the "morning paper" of their generation. I can certainly see why that would be the case. Much to catch up on with people from Washington state back through the plains states; a quick turn through NC and finally all that's happening with folks here in FL. Interesting.

But my topic this morning is a bit different from catching up with friends. I had such a great reminder yesterday about why we invest in friendships that I couldn't let it pass without at least mentioning it.

Yesterday I shared with you that I'm in "recovery" mode myself with so many things going on recently and not enough quiet time between. Unfortunately, the quiet time hasn't started just yet; clean-up comes before quiet in most dictionaries and so it is with church work. So, I hit the ground running again yesterday morning. One person needed a ride to the airport; another to the immigration office in Orlando.

And before I could get on the road, I had someone stop by my office who literally said, "Yeah, I hated to drop this bomb on you like this. I kinda wondered just how much stress you can handle first thing on Monday morning." They chuckled. I managed a weak smile. Hmmmm....some days are like that.

Anyway, we made it to the airport with time to spare and surprisingly (graciously) the immigration office was very near the airport. (Just realized that probably this was intentional: international airport - immigration office. Hello?! Sometimes I'm just like Sherlock Holmes. Smile.) And fortunately, I had no major role to play in being there so I indulged in a little "people watching" which happens to be one of my favorite sports.

Great fun trying to guess what country various individuals were from. Who was there with whom? Were they family or simply friends? Have they been in the US for very long? Are they working toward citizenship? What brought them to the U.S.? Obviously the workers enjoyed their jobs because they were kind and patient with everyone whether they were English-speaking or not. But forgive me, I digress.

I drove back to Winter Haven, thankful for the time with yet another person I had been needing to talk to. (Redeem the time!) I stopped at the front desk to check in with Amanda who keeps us all on the right track, confirmed lunch plans and headed back to my office to quickly scan emails.

When I pushed open the door, I stopped abruptly on the threshold. There on my desk was the most beautiful gift bag - hot pink, with black and white accents. Hot pink tissue paper alternated with pink and white polka dot paper was shooting out the top of the bag like fireworks. I gasped with delight! (And, no, that is not an exaggeration.)

Last week I had surprised a friend by correctly identifying the little known fragrance she was wearing called Amazing Grace. It is such a light but distinctive perfume and, of course, I loved the name from the first time I learned of it. There on my desk, in the middle of all the "stuff" of Monday, was my very own collection of Amazing Grace - perfume, shower gel, lotions! A gift from this friend. What a decadent and delightful blessing.

Tears sprang to my eyes. Yes, the perfume was lavish and I will definitely enjoy wearing it. But the tears came because the gift itself was such a delightful departure from everything else I've been surprised by lately. Only the Lord knows just how much I needed that little "Ahhhh" moment. A kiss from heaven!

It seems that we're more often surprised by things like spiders, spills, unexpected bills (oh please, how cute was that?!) And just every now and again we could all use a surprise of delight instead of difficulty.

Because the unexpected kindness of my friend was such an encouragement, I hope to recreate that moment for someone else today. (Isn't that called: paying it forward?) Maybe there is someone you can be a delight for as well. It doesn't really need to be more than a note, an email,a single flower left on a desk or windshield wiper. Sometimes Frank writes a little love note on a scrap of paper and tucks it in my favorite coffee cup to be discovered later - sure makes for a nice start to the morning.

Don't worry about trying to recreate the fireworks gift bag sort of surprise; sometimes simple is all that's called for. And do remember that my mom always said, "What goes around comes around." If nothing else, you'll enjoy a great smile just thinking about the face of your friend when they discover your gift of delight! Ahhhhh!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Help Is on the Way

I told you that I'm technologically challenged in much the same way I'm fashion challenged. I pretty much know just enough about my laptop to make me relatively dangerous. The electricity went out for a couple of hours in our neighborhood last night when I was planning to write and I've had trouble connecting with the internet this morning. (Must admit that the candle light was nice for a change; comforting.)

I think it's pretty common knowledge that our emotions bounce all around. And it's also a common struggle for us to work at controlling them instead of emotions controlling us, right? (Whew, for a moment there I thought it was just me! Smile.) When life is crazy, it's hard to determine which thoughts are reasonable and which ones need to be put aside - can you tell that's where I find myself this morning?

Our "world" has been an absolute whirlwind for about two months now. The twenty-fifth anniversary of our church, Easter, Meagan's surgery, Spring Tea, plus all the normal unextraodinary/extraordinary issues of being involved in the lives of many people.

So it was that I said to my dear husband last week, "As soon as Meagan is feeling better, I will be leaving Winter Haven for a few days. I'd love for you to join me if you'd like. But I will be getting out of town to breathe." I think he probably plans to join me. (Don't know where I'm headed yet; just needed to tell myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't the head light of a train. Smile.)

Isn't it funny that thousands of people dream, work and save in order to come to the tropical paradise known as central FL and there is a pastor's wife planning to run from here just as soon as she can. (Only for a few days, mind you.) Erma Bombeck once said, "The grass is always greener right over the septic tank." I loved Erma Bombeck! What a brilliant philosopher.

Update on Meagan. She is now having an new allergic reaction in the form of a rash all over her face and neck. It looks very much like measles and itches terribly. Her lips are also still pretty swollen; the Benadryl has helped some. The surgeon hopes to be able to remove the plastic guard - which seems to be causing so much of this trouble - on Wednesday. Please help us pray that her new bite will be advanced to the point that he can do this. Poor baby. She's a trooper and has had us all laughing several times this week-end in spite of the trouble.

So, (deep breath inserted here) on we go with the work every Monday brings. But tucked safely in the back of my heart and head is the promise - leaving town in just a few days, for a few days. How delicious!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Speaking Plainly

Wow! Thanks to all of you for your comments, suggestions and encouragement about the most recent post. I had hesitated to be so blunt. But I guess the truth is that we all have rough patches of life and it helps to know that we aren't alone in those. (My dear friend, Becky, has suggested that I reformat my response section to make commenting easier. Working on that. I know just enough about this to be dangerous.)

Meagan is about the same; her lips are swollen and very tender. The surgeon seems to be stumped. It appears that Kristin and Meagan have the dubious honor of being his first patients to ever have such an allergic reaction to the guard. Certainly not as much fun as an Olympic Gold! We are hoping the Benadryl will help matters soon.

It has been interesting trying to learn her "new speech". Did you really think a little thing like not being able to move your mouth would stop a determined young woman from talking? Smile. Not around these parts.

There are lots of new words like: Tur tle (the color, not the creature); Ter teck (perfect); Oht neal (oatmeal); suut (soup) and so on. Fortunately for us, Meagan is being very patient and willingly repeats things, uses hand motions and even resorts to writing it out in order to help us understand.

While in the hospital, she was using regular sign language to express something to me. I don't know many letters but I was quite pleased that I correctly guessed the first letter was "i".

Okay, next letter is..... ummmmm "c"? Meagan nodded vigorously.

"What did you see, Baby? Do you need to see something?" I began looking around the room. Meagan shook her head.

Again the slow process of signing the letters.

"i" I
"c" see
Ummmmmm......oh, good grief. Why didn't I learn sign language with her?

Ummmmm "e"? Is that the sign for "e"? Meagan nodded the affirmative. Woo Hoo, we got it.

I glanced at Frank. "What do you think she wants to see?" Meagan sighed.

Start again. More emphasis this time. (I think that is yelling in sign language.)

"i" I
"c" see
"e" clue

"Oh, Baby, I'm so sorry. Mama just doesn't understand."

She resorted to hand motions and gently placed both palms against her puffy cheeks.

The light dawned and Dad yelled, "ICE! She needs ice packs for her cheeks!" (Okay, so I know you caught that much faster than we did. Both parents did indeed graduate from college but it seems that's no guarantee of understanding basic communication methods.)

If Meagan were to read the precious comments you have left, she would want to say: "Tanks tor trayin tor ne. I atresate it."
Which being interpreted would be:
"Thanks for praying for me. I appreciate it." And we really do!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reality Check

Transparency and honesty.

These are benchmark traits called for in blogging. And when I began this blog, I made a commitment to stay engaged and to write regularly. Hence the large sign symbolically hanging over Embrace the Grace: "Transparency and Honesty Found Here."

But to be perfectly honest, I haven't wanted to be transparent during the past ten days of my life.

As I mentioned earlier, we experienced this corrective surgery last December with Kristin and the recovery is NOT an easy road. It's so hard to watch your children in pain and know there is nothing you can do to relieve the pain. This is their road to walk and all you can do is travel along beside them offering comfort to the best of your ability. We had hoped and prayed that Meagan's journey would be easier.

It isn't.

Here we are again with a list of medicines five columns across on the legal pad so we can keep up with the times they must be given. It has also been necessary to avoid dairy products during certain hours so the powerful antibiotic won't be compromised. So there goes instant breakfast meals packed with protein to speed the healing of the bones; Gatorade helps avoid dehydration but doesn't offer protein. AND we are trying to avoid nausea at ALL costs. So although I've never kept soda at our house, bottles of Sprite AND Seirra Mist are currently to be found in abundance on my counter!

She has developed an allergic reaction to the all-important plastic guard which cannot be removed from her mouth because it is literally "holding her upper jaw in place." So, she is joking her way through the massively swollen lips (and the pain which accompanies this reaction) by saying she looks like an add for a botox job gone terribly wrong. You should see the looks we get from people who are trying NOT to stare. She is just hoping someone will run into something before it's over. (Disclaimer: a warped sense of humor is hereditary.)

There are syringes of varying shapes and sizes lying around. Two for medicines; one reserved for broth; one for dairy items and cream of wheat; another for juices, tea, water; one more used just for rinsing her poor little mouth after "meals".

And when I got back from the office yesterday, she was running a slight fever. (Kristin had spent the day serving as nurse.) So today we will make the trek back to Orlando for the surgeon to poke and prod those pitiful lips in order to determine her progress. Sigh.

Then in the midst of all this: my microwave oven sparked wildly and died, the garbage disposal refuses to do anything more than offer a maddening hum and our lawn mower has decided that it would prefer the job of "very large door stop" this summer instead of lawn maintainer. (Why is it that the first thing to go green in the spring is weeds?!)

Princess Gracie got mad about the limited amount of attention she is receiving and left me a displeasing reminder that she is around this weekend; first time in two years. (That promptly landed her little behind in the kennel! Some things I just won't tolerate.)

Are you overwhelmed yet? Sorry, feel free to click out at any point because there is more!
These are the things going on just at our house. I haven't even begun the list involving extended family, church family, upcoming events, deadlines to be met.............well, you get the picture.

Sooooooo, what is the uplifting, edifying conclusion I've drawn from this place in our journey to share with you dear readers today?

Don't have one!
No, really. Nothing! Nada! "No, not one. No, not one." (Only some of you older hymn singers will recognize those lyrics. That was meant to indicate the HYMN was older not that you were older. Smile.)

How's that for honesty and transparency? But some times, that's just the way it is and I did make a commitment, so there you go. I guess a good dose of humility comes with this too because I'm suddenly reminded just how limited I am and how much I must depend on others through prayer, a helping hand, words of encouragement. (Thanks, Robin for the fabulous black bean, pureed soup. Yummm.) And I am oh so very thankful to be part of a caring community of Christian friends at a moment like this.

If you happen to see me wandering around the grocery store, sporting a dazed expression and mumbling to myself, don't be alarmed. I'm probably just muttering a portion of scripture which I currently find to be one of my favorites: "....and it came to pass. (It did not come to stay.) It came to pass." Smile.

Hope your day is blessed!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tough Times; Tough People

The trouble with trouble is that it is so very.........well, troubling!

I apologize to anyone interested in an apology for not writing before now. There was good reason, promise.

Last Monday morning we all rose earlier than even the earliest of sunrise service attenders; 3:30 AM! (That's when the alarm went off. But you know how it is when you must wake up extra early and you're so afraid you'll miss it that you keep checking the clock every hour on the hour after you've gone to sleep?! Yep, that's how it was around here.)

We left the house at 4:15 am in order to be valet-parked by the young valets of Florida Hospital Orlando and wandered the cold, lonely hallway maze until we were finally standing in front of the outpatient check-in window prior to 5:30 am. Just as we had been instructed.

It seems that at some point in their early development, both Kristin and Meagan fell or experienced a bump of some sort that caused their jaws to grow with a malformation. Said malformation had begun to cause headaches, popping jaws and several other problems that were diagnosed to only grow worse through coming years.

So it was that Monday morning, we found ourselves in a pre-op bay nervously waiting for the "remedial" surgery to begin. (Kristin had been through the same procedure in December. Sometimes it's good to know what's coming and sometimes it just makes things more nerve-wracking!)

Although we started this journey in the area called "outpatient", there is nothing minor about this procedure. The surgery itself lasts for five or six HOURS. I'll spare you the details of all that takes place during that length of time; just know that we were extremely relieved when the call came from the operating room, "She did just fine. They are closing now; you can see her in recovery in about an hour." Resplendent words, indeed!

As a result of this surgery, the patient is on a total liquid diet for about three weeks. Soft foods like apple sauce, yogurt, scrambled eggs and such can be added around that time. Kristin's surgery was the last Monday of December and she still can't chew anything like steak or nuts. So, menu selections are odd around our house these days. Dad doesn't seem to mind because it's for his girls. (Collective AWWWW!)

Thanks to many prayers and much TLC, Meagan is now home and on the bumpy road to recovery. She is a trooper!

But I started the post with a "deep" philosophical observance about trouble in our lives.

In the past seven days, I've looked into the hearts of four women I love very dearly and I've watched as life-altering waves have come their way. These women range in age from 22 to 80; the scenarios vary greatly but one thing has been the same - each could easily drown in her trouble.

There is no way for me to help them, really. I can stand alongside and offer prayers, gently pat their back, hold a hand, listen intently. But I can not spare them the sorrow, fear, disappointment, agony of impossible choices - and I wish I could. I really wish I could!

Bottom line is this, trouble comes to every life - it is the great common denominator for us all. The most important choice is how we will choose to respond to our troubles; that's what ultimately matters.

I've watched each of these women collect themselves, take a deep breath, ponder the impact of their choices on family and bravely search for "What's next!" I am in awe of them and their tenacity. God grant that strength to each of us when it is most needed.

Trouble is "troubling" indeed. But it does not need to define who we are nor does it need to determine our capacity to live.

I would never marginalize the troubles my friends are facing by throwing out some trite phrase:
"It'll be okay." We don't know that for sure.
"At least you can be thankful for......." That shows I have no understanding of how grave the situation is.
"Well if it were me, I would......." It's NOT me and I have NO idea how I would respond if it were.
"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Okay, that's just grounds for getting slapped!

What I can offer is two of the phrases that have kept me sane in times of trouble:
"I know whom I have believed and He is able to keep me."
"You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You."

That's enough!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The "Undo" Button

One of my guilty pleasures in life is playing solitaire on the computer.

Frank introduced me to the game last spring while we were on vacation in NC. I was slow at first: click, study, study, search; click, search, search, study; click....... (notice the subtle but all important variations in my routine. Smile.)

He told the girls that he was shocked how quickly the habit took hold with me. One morning he was dozing on the couch after his early quiet time when he wakened to this consistent but oh so annoying little sound: "click/swhish; click/swish; click/swhish". It took several minutes for his mind to focus. But as he peeked over the back of the couch, he discovered me sitting hunched over the computer at the kitchen counter trying to quietly play solitaire at 5:30 in the morning!

Yep, I was pretty bad. (Badly addicted and bad at playing.) But I'm doing much better now. So much better that during our fast time in January, I had to fast playing entirely for forty days. The Lord knows exactly how to get our full attention, doesn't He? And I've now limited myself to only three games at a time and no more than three times a day. (Yeah, that doesn't exactly qualify for broken addiction does it? Sigh. Please offer grace with the understanding that many days I'm too busy to play at all. Better? Thanks.)


I think one of my favorite parts of the entire game is the "undo" button. It's this amazing little button that allows me to choose a move, see the results, decide if I think another option would have been better, click said magic button and cause everything to go right back to what it was before. Amazing, right?!

Don't you have days that you wish included the option of the "undo" button? I sure do!
Said the wrong thing? - "Undo!"
Received bad news? - "Undo!"
Someone hurt you deeply? - "Undo!"
Missed an opportunity? - "Undo!"

A few years ago I saw previews for a movie with a similar theme. The main character was given the opportunity to simply fast-forward all the uncomfortable or unpleasant portions of his life. (A friend confirmed for me the predictable outcome, so I didn't have to waste time watching it myself. Smile.) Bottom line? He essentially fast-forwarded his life away; magically realizing his mistake at the end and gladly relinquishing his ability in order to once again live ALL of life - even the difficult parts.

Huh, not too sure how quickly I would have come to that conclusion. (I'm just kidding! Sheesh!)

Truth is, life must have some variety. Typically when we quote, "Variety is the spice of life!" we think of joyful days, adventurous journeys, happy reunions. We forget that when cooking, some wonderful spice is added by things like onions and hot peppers and bay leaves and ....well, you get the idea. Any one of those things eaten by itself would be truly nasty. But when I mix those in with other ingredients, they compliment and actually enhance the overall flavor of the dish.

(Predictable conclusion coming now. Smile.)

I don't enjoy the days when an "undo" button would be useful but I understand their purpose in the bigger picture:
Poor choices make me pray to have more wisdom for next time around.
Harsh words make me more appreciative of loving words spoken by others.
Missed opportunities sharpen my attention and push me to be better prepared.

I probably would not be a good steward of my own personal "undo" button which is why God did not provide one. But He has equipped us all with two very powerful options for dealing with difficult times - trust and forgiveness.

He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy; so I don't have to waste time fretting over the outcome of my mistakes. And He gently leads us down the road of forgiveness when our own hearts are broken; so I don't wear myself out dragging unnecessary baggage.

Well, now that I think about it maybe trust and forgiveness are just as good as an "undo" button. You probably already know the scripture that compliments this thought. Romans 8:28 "..we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..."

Hope you find just exactly the right Easter bonnet!