Monday, May 31, 2010

Warning: Soap Box Post

We absolutely LOVE patriotic holidays!

Frank has instilled a deep respect in our girls for the military and veterans. We proudly fly our flag. We put our hands over our hearts during the national anthem and often wipe tears from our eyes. And if you dare not to vote - don't tell him! As this family sees it, if you want to be a citizen of the United States you'd better be an appreciative, participating, patriot. End of story!

(I'm aware that our Canadian neighbors are just as proud of their service members and veterans and with good reason. We should all be appreciative of men and women who chose to "bear arms" on behalf of our homeland!)

Our day is planned and will be a joyful day celebrating family. We'll all spend time at the lake with some of Joy and John's friends; I'm pretty sure a boat and some jet skis will be involved. (Rest assured, Mama is already searching for the life vests and sun screen.) Then there will be the marvelous cook-out; John is a grill master extraordinaire, just like his dad. And yes, I will choose to eat watermelon for dessert! Public accountability stinks. Smile.

Frank and I sat quietly together last night and watched the PBS special Memorial Day Concert which was held on the mall in Washington. Beautiful and moving! We find it especially interesting that although so many in our country want to remove any mention of God from patriotic matters, it's just impossible to do.

The intervention of almighty God (Benjamin Franklin's words, not mine) is woven intricately throughout all of our history. Some may simply try to skip over that truth or even rewrite it. But truth has a way of reappearing whether we want it around or not.

And it seems to be that any time a human being is faced with a"life or death" moment, they reach for an understanding of who God is. As we listened last night to actors who were reading letters and journals of military men and women, this became abundantly clear.

Intellectuals sitting in the comfort of their offices on Main Street may consider God a "non-essential". But for the "boots on the ground" who are faced with bullets and bombs, God is an ever present help; their shield; their source of courage. (Their words, not mine.)

Yep, the Creator just seems to have a way of continuing to show up in the lives of the ones He created - whether we choose to acknowledge Him or not. I love that about God! He has the best sense of humor.

"Okay," He says. "You want to act like you don't see me? That's no problem, I still see yooooouuuuuu!" Yep, great sense of humor!

So, at some point today in our playing and laughing and eating, we will stop and spend a few minutes praying together. We will thank God for our country with its freedoms. We will pray for the military men and women serving faithfully all around this world. And we will ask for God's favor and blessings to continue to rest upon this land. Because the truth is, we need to experience His grace "from sea to shining sea"!

Thanks for standing on my soap box with me for a few minutes. Blessings on your Memorial Day !

P.S. Thanks to everyone who commented on my "weighty post" from Friday. Smile. Judy and Ann were also wondering how Meagan is doing since her corrective jaw surgery. Just fine, thank the Lord! She is able to eat again. And although steak and nuts are off the menu still, she is able to handle chicken fingers - the staple of all young adults today. You also asked about weight loss during the liquid diet days. Kristin lost quite a bit of weight but we learned some things during her recovery and fortunately Meagan was able to keep hers steady.

Thanks again, your comments really are a delightful treat and a source of encouragement!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Incovenient Truth!

And here it is. The moment of TRUTH!

To what could I possibly be referring? This week-end marks the official beginning of summer. And while for many people this means barbecue, beaches and backyard fun - for me it also marks the beginning of trying to squeeze back into clothes that may or may not still fit.

The real moment of truth should have come last week-end when I put on my swimsuit. But there was no full length mirror at the fishing cabin. (Why would you have a full-length mirror there? The fish don't care what you look like.) And although the "task" of getting into my suit did involve more huffing and puffing and pulling and tugging than it did last summer, I simply marked it up to not feeling well and being on prescription drugs.

Alas, the antibiotic was not the problem. It seems that my bathroom scales have not been slowly losing their accuracy as I had supposed. When I tried to "slip into" one of my summer skirts yesterday, some of the same tugging and puffing was necessary.

"How curious!" I thought in a bemused sort of way.

I finally managed to hold my breath long enough to connect the hook and eye at the top of the overworked zipper and that's when it happened. I turned slowly to the full length mirror in our bedroom and the harsh light of day dawned on my little chocolate-loving heart. There, on my very own hips, now resides the equivalent of the full contents of a ten pound bag of sugar! (These 10 lb. bags can only be procured at Sam's Club where everything comes in whale-size packaging. Now there's a word picture for you. Sigh!)

Yes, the moment of truth.

I don't know about you, but I happen to have in my closet a rather b-r-o-a-d spectrum of clothing sizes. I confess to you now, in the privacy of this internet blog, there are clothes in my closet ranging through FOUR different number sizes. (You will note that I did not reveal the actual sizes. Some things are just too private even for blogging. Smile.) This will certainly seem ridiculous to the few men who read this blog. But trust me, the women understand completely.

I've shared with you how much I enjoy being blessed to "shop" in friends' closets. I do allow the girls or Frank to monitor those shopping experiences because in my fashion-challenged mind, if my friend liked it and wore it then surely I should too. (Now you see why I need help.) But in those times of perusing wardrobe possibilities, I've never felt it necessary to ignore an article of clothing simply because of the size on the tag. Isn't that like irresponsible prejudice?

Therefore, "small", "medium" and "large" all reside together contentedly in my one little closet! Such harmony. And right now, in my current "physically expanded" situation, I'm thankful to have the options. The only problem is this, most of the things I wear for summer don't have the "camouflage" capability contained in the clothing of other seasons. Sigh.

Now I know why most pictures you see of little old ladies from Southern towns depict those ladies in only one of three ways:
  1. Sitting on a porch; sipping iced tea. (SWEET, of course!)
  2. Wearing gardening attire. (Complete with old jeans, long-sleeved shirt and sun bonnet.)
  3. Covered up with adoring grandchildren. (Another brilliant camouflage.)

Oh, my! I'm not ready to be a full-fledged member of the "little old ladies" club; so I guess I don't have a choice. It really is time to make the switch from chocolate to watermelon. I can no longer sit here thinking about how nice it would be to take a walk, then only walk to the refrigerator. And I must believe my old friend, the bathroom scale as she calls out to me.

Hopefully, by being honest with you dear readers I'll feel more accountable and will start working diligently at reducing that 10 lb. bag of sugar I had started carrying around with me. Perhaps we'll revisit this topic sometime in.... let's say - August. Smile.

Until then, hope your Memorial Day Weekend is truly memorable!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Steriod Shot

I apologize, dear readers, for allowing an entire week to pass without posting. (Not that YOU couldn't live without it! Smile. It's just that I made a commitment and want to be faithful to said promise.)

Anyway, the bronchitis monster is just about beaten into submission thanks to another doctor visit and a second round of antibiotics. Oh joy! And thanks to a wonderful treat provided us by dear friends. Frank and I spent three days in a quaint fishing cabin on the Weeki Wachee River. (No, "quaint" is not code for no electricity and an out house!) It really was a lovely place; complete with a porch swing, a perfect view of the river and quiet woods all around. RESPLENDENT!

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and I purposely removed my watch. Oddly enough the two clocks prominently displayed in the kitchen were missing batteries so I was able to just move on "body time". Because I still felt pretty bad, I took a nap while Frank went out to "explore the land". Which being interpreted means: he found the closest grocery store.

We had taken some food to prepare, made an easy dinner, then jumped in the car to find the sunset. (Sunsets are not readily visible deep in the woods.) It was spectacular; one of the distinct advantages of FL being totally flat! We also found a little beach area about five minutes from the cabin and made plans to spend some time there.

The highlights of the time away were - eating, sleeping, reading, holding hands, repeating! I felt too badly for any kind of in-depth discussions (much to Frank's delight. Smile.) And we both had great books we were reading; so it was perfect. We also were treated to many kisses from heaven in the form of seeing manatees glide right by in the river, a couple of dolphins (or porpoises I can never keep those straight), cardinals, woodpeckers, squirrels that ate crackers right off our deck. Yep, resplendent.

It was necessary to do battle with the indigenous monsters known as "Yellow Flies". Good grief, we should all be so relentless in our purpose here on earth as those little creatures! But we followed the advice of our friends, doused ourselves in bug spray and headed outdoors anyway.

By the time we packed the car Saturday afternoon and started back toward Winter Haven, our hearts were refreshed, our bodies were more rested and we could remember why we got married in the first place.

To all the readers who are young, please hear wisdom speaking to you from this "far away" land of getting older: take time with your spouse! I know that where you are now it seems there will always be another day to take that walk, a better time financially to go out, a weekend when the children won't need you as much......... That list is endless and will rob you of an important investment if you aren't careful.

When we were newlyweds, I did a pretty good job of putting Frank first. He and I were very purposeful about nurturing our marriage and finding joy in living together. (Not always an easy task with two strong-willed, first-borns like us.) And as the girls came along, we still took time for one another. I even planned a few "kidnappings" when he was in his workaholic days which were great fun.

Unfortunately, as time slipped by and we became pioneers of two different ministries, I allowed my frugal side (some call it tightwad, I prefer frugal) to take over and we put those investments on the back burner. Our wedding anniversary is December 30th - not exactly the best time to come up with extra money for a nice dinner out. And while we were evangelists, it was hard to justify the expense of a weekend away; we traveled all the time for heaven's sake. I told Frank not to worry about flowers, they just die anyway.

But the truth given us by Dr. Crandall Miller from college days still rings true: "What you feed grows and what you starve dies!"

I'd like to encourage you to be intentional about feeding your marriage the good things of laughter, joy, encouragement, intimacy, faithfulness. Make a choice to starve fear, insecurity, selfishness. Make your marriage priority one after your walk with the Lord and before your job as parent. And the best news is this - it's never too late to begin these practices.

Our time away this weekend felt just like an emotional steroid shot for our relationship. Good habits may take time to develop and energy to execute but they always yield good results. And if you put those habits in place early, when you finally arrive at the "Old Timer's Post-marker" (like us) you'll discover it's just like riding a bicycle. You never really forget how to treasure one another.

Hope your week is special!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mark the "Win"

At 7:15 this morning my "to do" list was already covering the back of the envelope I grabbed to write it on. Years ago I came across the idea that it's important to keep a note pad close at hand during devotions to write down thoughts that will otherwise distract you. You know, kind of a guarantee that if you go ahead and focus on the devotion time you won't get embarrassed later by being reminded that you forgot to do what you had remembered while you were trying to do devotions?! Smile.

Now while this is a wonderful idea, I've already confessed to you dear readers that organization is not a natural gifting for me. No, for me organization is more like a survival skill that must be addressed daily so that I don't end up "bull-dozed" by some event that I neglected to remember. Can you tell that I've been there a few times? (The problems that arise when one is lacking in this skill are seriously heightened when you are the person in charge! Sigh.)

So, while the perfectly precious pad that I promptly procured for writing such reminders was prominently placed in close proximity to my Bible and journal, I apparently "phailed" in the task of perpetuating a knowledge of its placement. In other words: bought a pad, lost the pad, had to write on a envelope which I hope I won't lose before I can get to the office!

See? You thought I was kidding. Nope, not at all!

One of the "Nother Mothers" God placed in my life tried to gently help me with this problem when I was younger. She started out with cutesy little reminders. She tried a couple of funny cards that addressed the problem but with the balm of humor. Then she graduated to giving me articles which she had cut out of magazines. Finally, she sat me down on her porch swing one day, gave me a cup of hot tea for comfort and said in no uncertain terms, "Sheri, you've GOT to get organized!!"

Thankfully she is a woman who is organized enough for two people. So, I began walking out the Proverb with her, "He who hates correction will die!" Oh wait, no. What I meant to write was, "The discerning heart seeks knowledge." Whew, much better.

Now mind you, it wasn't an easy journey - who likes to have a spot light put on their weaknesses?! And sometimes when something comes naturally to you, it's hard to understand why it doesn't come that easily to everyone else. In other words, I had plenty of opportunities to get my feelings hurt while we worked on this.

But over time, she was able to hammer some basic truths into me that became part of the fabric of life. I latched on to the importance of a few simple "non-negotiables" that have become life-savers as I travel along. And by carefully working at implementing these regularly, I've gotten a little better.

Now some of you have already mentally returned to the opening paragraph where I described how I'm still lacking in organizational skills. I didn't say I've arrived! I'm simply reminding myself that progress has been made and as Joyce Meyer often says, "I'm not as good as I need to be. But I'm sure not as bad as I was!"

So although writing my reminders on the back of an envelope is a bit disappointing for me today, I'll simply rehearse some improvements I've made:
  • I know where all my children are! (And the only time I lost one of my children it was for a very short period of time. That's a win.)
  • While I'm not sure where my purse is sitting, I do know that my keys are in it!
  • If we should need a clean set of sheets for unexpected company tonight, I know that they are in the top left corner of my closet! And they are clean.
  • In thirty years of wearing it, I've never permanently lost my wedding ring! (Other rings, yes. But this is a list of wins, right?)
  • I still do not have a handy-dandy address book listing the name, current address, birth date, social security number and Christmas card count of every friend I've known at my fingertips. But I have learned to use!
  • While I do not have my sermons categorized, alphabetized or any other kind of "ized", they are all pretty much gathered in an old brief case. And the more recent ones are typed, not written out in long hand on pages from a yellow pad.
Ah, the sweet victory of success! Yes, I'm aware I have a long way to go still. But I'm certainly glad that the Lord is patient. AND He loves me enough to have surrounded me with many who are organized enough for two. Thank You, Lord for partners on this journey.

Now, where did I put my charger cord for this computer? Smile.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

50% Power Level

What a marvelous way to recover!

Frank and I have spent the entire day moving along at 50% power. That might be better understood by saying we have not rushed for one single minute today. And if you know us very well, you know that this is an unusual thing for us.

Last week I caught some plants marked waaaaay down; a real kiss from heaven because I love getting to work in the flower garden. But because I've been sick all week, we couldn't get them in the ground. So this morning, Frank grabbed a comfy lawn chair for me; placed it where we needed to plant; then proceeded to dig the holes and let me participate as much or as little as I could. (The plants were a kiss from heaven, this was a kiss from my sweetheart. Smile.)

We created new flower beds under the oaks in the front yard which are just this year big enough to offer much-needed shade. I've been watching the path of the sun ever since the time change to see if anything would be able to hold up to the harsh afternoon rays of summer. Hopefully this will be the year we will have color in the front yard.

And as we worked under those two oaks, slowly - methodically, we thought about how small those trees were when we moved in just four years ago. Then we talked about how perfect those same trees will be in just a few more years when we need some branches for a tire swing and others for climbing! Ahhh, how bright the future.

We planted a rose bush I had snatched for two dollars, bunches of vinca in varying colors, along with a few other full-sun plants. But I must admit that they all pale in comparison to the new desert rose Frank bought for me this afternoon during our final Wal-mart run.

You see, my given name is Sharon which is found in the Bible describing a plain as well as a particular rose of the desert. When I was young and found both I asked my mom which my name meant. We were with friends and my mom who was always the comedian responded, "Well I wanted to name you for the rose, honey. But you turned out more like your mama, kinda plain. So I guess you're named for the plain of Sharon." We all laughed at the cute pun.

I'm sure Mom meant to come back around at some point and correct the joke. "Of course, you're named for the rose, Honey. I was only kidding." But that moment never actually came. (Note to self: don't leave things unsaid that I intend to say.)

A few years ago, friends in our church gave us our first desert rose. It was lovely! Strong pink flowers and deep green leaves shooting from bare, gnarled branches. One day as I was watering the plant, the Lord began to whisper to my heart, "This plant normally grows in a very harsh environment. The flowers are a delightful and refreshing surprise to weary desert travelers. The blooms are a testimony to my ability to create beauty where it is thought impossible. And that is how I see you, Sheri. You are my desert rose - Sharon." Such encouragement to my heart!

In the slow pace of today, I was able to hear that quiet whisper again bringing hope to my heart. What encouragement does He want to whisper to you, dear friend? Turn the power to 50% and listen for your own special message of love.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sickness Satire

Okay, it's official!

I'm totally and completely finished with being sick!!

This is the end of my third day out of commission and I'm just done. I had calculated in my little brain which was riddled with drugs that probably today, the third day, would be my "comeback kid" time. I mean, good gracious, Jesus rose from the DEAD in three days; this is only bronchitis!

Sure enough, when I woke this morning I no longer felt like I was dead so I took that as a good sign and plotted my day. It quickly became apparent that Plan A (half-day at the office) was out so I went for Plan B. Move to the love seat and continue to rest until around 11:00. Drink plenty of Gatorade to totally hydrate then make a dash for the shower. (Skip all cosmetic rituals. Focus only on totally essential cleaning. I didn't even attempt to curl my hair.) Proceed to eat some lunch, take a nap to rejuvenate and then announce to my family that I would need a ride to church. Because I am, after all, Wonder Woman in Pentecostal attire, right?!

I can already hear those of you who have dealt with bronchitis; you are bent over double laughing at me! Yep, I knew it. Smile. I would be laughing too, except it would start the coughing again. And right now, I want to avoid coughing at all costs. The middle part of me which I affectionately refer to as "jelly roll" is in excruciating pain. And with each cough comes the agonizing decision: "Do I hold my head which has stabbing pain or my jelly roll which continues to spasm after the coughing spell?" Sigh.

So I will take a coherent moment and share with you dear friends a couple of the observations I've made over the past few days of interment.

  1. I've said for years that there's nothing on TV worth watching; I now have proof. There is nothing on TV worth watching! And every commercial uses teen-agers posing as adults to sell things no teen-ager would ever want if it wasn't guaranteed to make them a lot of money advertising for it.
  2. Bella and Gracie are undoubtedly the laziest creatures that God ever allowed to utilize four legs! Until this week, I had supposed that the two of them chase each other happily around the house all day; jumping and playing until we finally arrive home; shower them with the affection they crave; at which time they collapse contentedly on the floor. Nope. Collapsed on the floor is pretty much what they do all day long! (That is if they aren't barking like idiots at every grasshopper in the front yard.)
  3. Mary Kay really is my very best friend in all the world! I have not consulted with my friend these three days because, why waste it? Yeah, at this stage of my life, every day is a Mary Kay day and should be viewed as an investment not a waste. I've glanced in the mirror and startled myself several times in this make-up-less state. When Frank says he loves me just the way I am, he must really mean it!
  4. I finally had time to carefully peruse the sales flier Belk sent out to entice men to purchase things for their wives for Mother's Day that the wives never said they wanted in the first place. May I just say, the women they photographed for that flier are NOT to be confused with real moms! (Refer back to teen-agers in TV ads.) I had time to sit and study those little cuties and I did not see one single stretch mark or spider vein resulting from pregnancy. There were no dark circles, not a single set of blood-shot eyes indicating a night spent with a sleepless toddler. And not one, no not even one, little Barbiesque model revealed so much as a hint of cellulite - anywhere! No ladies and gentlemen, those are not real mothers. I know they have children in the background but please note that those children are blurred so as to keep hidden the fact that they look nothing at all like the little models in the foreground. Hmmmm!
  5. Finally, I don't think chicken soup does a thing to help the infirm-ed! I know that everyone gives reports to the contrary. But really, at this point in the process, I think it's all just a bunch of hype and false hope. I've consumed huge quantities of liquid laced with poultry and even some vegetables -- still coughing! Sigh.
In conclusion, I must simply remind myself how thankful I am that three days out of commission is nothing compared to what so many of my friends have encountered and some continue to experience. So, I'll stop the whining and look forward to feeling better soon.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Look at the Grapes

Yesterday, I visited the doctor for myself; first time in a long time. She quickly diagnosed me with bronchitis and I wondered if she regretted giving me a hug when she had entered the exam room. Bronchitis is pretty contagious. Smile.

At any rate, I'm now loaded with antibiotics and some pretty powerful cough medicine. (I know it's powerful because I'm having extreme difficulty typing.) So if something is misspelled or doesn't really make sense don't worry, I'll try to correct it later. I've just felt very strongly for the past couple of days that I needed to share something with the young moms and women in ministry; hopefully it will be a point of encouragement for everyone. So here goes......

Several years ago, we were in need of a new vehicle. Not the "Oh, I'd sure love that new car smell again" kind of need. More like the "Oh no, the transmission just fell out on our way to church" kind of need. (That isn't an exaggeration.)

We had already been praying for some time and there just didn't seem to be any possibilities opening up. Losing the transmission in our van was the last straw and we KNEW something had to be done.

A great series of events started unfolding that I won't take time to detail but here is the cliff note version:
  • My sister spotted a potential vehicle advertised in a community paper that she usually threw in the trash. The van was in excellent condition and listed for a reasonable price. She and Chris went to see it and called to excitedly report their findings.
  • We called the lady selling it and she said, "I don't know why I even listed it. I love my van and don't really want to sell it." She had already turned down several other buyers. So the fact that we couldn't make the three hour trip to see it until Monday was no problem.
  • Surprisingly, a mechanic in our church just happened to be available to make the drive to Raleigh with Frank on Monday so he could check it out for us. And just as we thought, it was in excellent condition both mechanically and visually. (I'm sure that isn't the proper car terminology but that's not my area, okay?)
  • Frank called our local bank and was immediately approved for a personal loan covering the entire amount over the phone.
Now most people would look at these four "miracles" and draw one simple conclusion: The Lord must be providing this van for the replacement of the one that just died. End of story, right? Wrong.

We were, at that time, pioneer pastors living on an extremely tight budget. And when Frank told me what the monthly payment on that miracle loan would be, my knees went weak. I knew everything that had led up to this moment and I knew all the impossibilities we had already successfully crossed but the giant of that monthly responsibility just caused paralyzing fear to overwhelm me.

Frank could hear it in my voice. But instead of launching into a lecture about my weak faith, he simply said, "Let's take this afternoon and pray. We don't have to make a decision this second."

So even though it meant delaying the trip home for him and our friend we decided that a time of prayer was more important. I immediately called an older, wiser friend in Asheville to pray with us. I was giving her a quick update on the situation when she abruptly interrupted me. "Sheri, look at the grapes." Her interruption startled me so that for a minute I wondered if she had even been listening to me.


"You need to stop looking at the giants in this situation and look at the grapes. You are behaving just like the children of Israel. God has given you all these miraculous signs that He is providing this van for you and all you can see is how big the payment is going to be. Don't you know He is aware of that as well and has a plan? He just isn't letting you know all the details yet. That's where faith comes in."

Well, I was shocked! I mean, it wasn't her that was having to live by faith in this pioneer work, it was me! Didn't she realize that? She wasn't the one trying to care for three little girls on such a limited income. How could she feel justified in lecturing me, she obviously didn't know our full situation. Because if she did..........

I was gathering quite a head of steam when I heard that 'still small Voice' say, "She's right, you know. Look away from the giant and choose to look at the grapes instead."

For the second time in an hour, my knees felt weak but this time it was due to an entirely different emotion. Faith was stirring in my heart - faintly - but stirring none the less.

"This is going to be a great testimony of God's provision for your family. It's something you need, not an extravagance. And He wants to bless you, Sheri. You just need to push fear aside and move forward choosing to look at the grapes!"

I began to choke back tears because I knew in my heart that she was exactly right. I thanked her, hung up the phone and quickly called Frank right back.

He was delighted that the Lord had spoken to my heart with peace for the matter and it was determined that we would take the van.

Now, that van ran great for five more years and had almost 200,000 miles on it when we traded it in. It was completely paid off and the dealership even gave us a $4,000 credit toward our next purchase. (Kind of like the Lord meant to say, "I can do exceeding abundantly above all you can ask or even think." Smile.)

Now, I'm not sure why I felt it so urgent to share this story. Maybe it will help boost your faith for whatever giants you're facing. This one thing I do know - God is faithful; you can trust Him!

Look at the grapes!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Today in History

On May 7, 1902, a baby girl was born into the Miller household just outside Indianapolis, IN. It was a small farmhouse in a little town called Richmond and three year old brother, Martin, welcomed his new sister - Cora Thelma!

In an unheard of move for that day, the father abandoned the young mother and two small children before Cora could start school. So Mrs. Miller declared herself a laundress and began walking the five miles into Richmond daily; gathering and delivering clothes in order to support her children. Some of Cora's earliest memories revolved around playing in the "wash" drying on the clothesline.

Being on their own so much, she and Martin seemed to always be up to some sort of mischief. Once a neighbor who had been exceptionally unkind to their mother discovered his "outhouse" had mysteriously tumbled down the hillside during the night. He promptly approached Mrs. Miller while she was hanging out laundry in order to demand that her children be punished. The frail young mother was wearing her sun bonnet at the time and could only nod in agreement. (Time later revealed that it was actually Cora wearing the sun bonnet. And needless to say, Mom never found out! Smile.)

Cora adored her older brother and had no intention of being outdone by him. So their play was often rough and tumble. One summer day, she hit him in the forehead with a large board; he began to bleed profusely and she ran like the wind toward the safety of the chicken coop. Martin gathered his wits and began searching for her all around the farm.

Cora waited breathlessly for what seemed an eternity and finally bent down to sneak a peak through the knothole on the chicken coop door. She had no idea that Martin had already discovered her hiding place and had a sharp stick in hand ready to poke her fanny through the knothole on the door. Yes, he poked her right in the eye! And although medicine was primitive in that area, her eye was saved and they used the recovery time to play pirate - since she already had the eye patch. A small piece of the stick remained in her cornea throughout her life.

The owner of the first Model-T Ford in their area, came by their farm one day to show off his new purchase. The car was already filled but Cora really wanted a ride, so she stood on the running board and held onto the door. The car quickly gained speed, wind was whistling, trees were rushing past and the tough little girl got frightened. She jumped off the side of the car and broke her arm. But who wouldn't have been scared? That car was going twenty miles per hour!

She had to quit school after fourth grade in order to help with the laundry "business". But her mother insisted that she continue to read. And although her skills were limited she didn't let that stop her. Even as an adult, she continued to read the newspaper every day; just slowing long enough to spell words she didn't know.

Cora landed a job as a waitress in an Indianapolis Greek restaurant during the roaring twenties. (Oh the stories from that time!) There she met and married a handsome young patron named Buddy Tharp. They moved to his family's home in FL and tried to start their own family. Unfortunately, Cora was never able to conceive and her young husband felt no real need to be faithful to his vows.

Just before they divorced, a phone call came that altered Cora's life forever. A judge in their area who knew the Tharps wanted children had been contacted that night about an abandoned baby girl. Would they be interested in adopting her? Cora had only minutes to decide. She would often tell in later years that it was love at first sight. The baby literally became Cora's reason for living.

Cora worked long hours at the downtown department store, Bon Marche to support them. She was introduced to Christ by a friend after turning forty. And she became a woman with a kind heart; generous with everyone she encountered who was in need. When she grew older herself, Cora spent much of her free time visiting nursing homes to play her harmonica; purchasing and delivering groceries for shut-ins; volunteering at her church.

When Cora died in June of 1993, there were really very few people still around who knew her because she outlived most of her friends. Martin had been buried years before and her only other relatives were too old to make the journey from IN to FL for her memorial service.

So why is it important to write a little of her life story in this blog today?

Because Cora was my precious grandmother. The baby she saved from a life in foster care was my mom. And there you have it - the Rest of the Story! Smile.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Loud People

There are great noises at our house right now. The young adults group from church is over and although Kristin and Meagan are actually hosting, I still get the benefit of being around them all. The group includes everyone from 18-27. Some are "sweethearts"; we have one engaged couple; a couple of daters; some "I'm not interested at all" (uh huh); and one or two "I would think about it if you asked". What a mix! Smile.

The truly amazing thing is that our young adults pastor has been able to take this vast variation of people and in less than two years has turned them into a cohesive group that all care very deeply for one another. (Terrible run-on sentence but totally necessary.) And brace yourself, she is herself, a single woman in her mid-twenties. The group often refers to her as "Yoda!" because she operates with wisdom far beyond her years and experience. (No, pastor friends of ours, she is NOT looking to transfer. Don't even call.)

Right now, several of the group are gathered around our dining room table; laughing and telling things they wouldn't share with others. (I know this because when I walked through a moment ago, the conversation changed abruptly and quick glances were exchanged. How cute!)

The rest of the crew are outside playing what must be a pretty serious game of bean bag toss. I base this assumption on the intermittent cheers, squeals, and resounding "high-fives". MadGab is ready on the coffee table for later, along with cards and spoons. This will probably be a late night for the "oldie-goldies" of the house.

Truth be known, we don't mind a bit because they bring with them such a vibrant reminder of why we are involved in ministry. Life is just beginning to blossom for these dear ones and we are privileged to be part of this critical developmental stage. There aren't many long "heart-to-heart" conversations and we have no delusions of being wisdom-imparters or any such as that. They more often quote brilliant writers, theologians or song lyrics that have impacted them.

But every once in a while, we overhear someone use one of our common phrases. Or give someone else an illustration based on one of our life experiences. Or we discover they've made a good choice based on "long forgotten" advice from Pastor and our heart jumps.

I love the scripture that says, "I will tell of your goodness to the next generation." When you stop to think about it, that's pretty much a win-win part of our walk with God. So much of our personal relationship with Christ is something that merits being told anyway. And so we NEED someone to tell all these great stories. (You just have to get over being terrified that you will embarrass yourself. Count on it, at some point you will! I speak as one who knows. Smile.)

I would dare say that all of us have at least one incredible story of God's faithfulness in our life. We've hesitated sharing with anyone because we thought they just wouldn't be interested. Not so! Someone is waiting for the lessons you've learned, the miracle you've experienced, the discovery you've made. Don't be held back by fear.

This post took a little different turn than I had expected. I just have to trust that it was meant for someone and not allow myself to backspace furiously out of fear. (Smile.) See, we all battle it from time to time.

Be brave and tell your story to someone of the "next generation". It may make all the difference in their life....... and yours!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bright Spot

It seems that no matter how rough life may be at the time, there are always bright spots to be found and marked if we just look for them. The important thing is that we develop the habit of having "eyes to see" them.

While in NC, I was able to reconnect with many friends that Frank and I haven't seen in months and years. Tragic circumstances; good to be back in touch. I was also able to spend time with almost all of his family. It is a great blessing that Mom Hawley and I actually do enjoy one another's company.

Joyce Hawley is the quintessential southern belle! When Mom addresses me, my two-syllable name suddenly adds about twelve more syllables and a distinctive sing-song melody. (Think "Steel Magnolias" on steroids.) And I'm not sure if this is a unique "southern grandma habit" or not but she definitely has an entire cabinet in her kitchen dedicated solely to the housing of sugar of all sorts. Little Debbie reigns as queen of that cabinet!

My flights home were uneventful and on time, thank the Lord. But there was an even bigger matter that needs to be appreciated. When I finally got home and started getting ready for bed, I realized that my bracelet was missing. Now this isn't just any piece of costume jewelry (of which I have many. Smile.) No, this is my one, 10k gold, 50th birthday gift from the whole family bracelet.

A diligent search ensued!

You know how it is when your evening or morning routine is interrupted by travel. Nothing is where it's supposed to be. I usually find myself circling the bedroom searching for needed items in much the same way Bella circles when chasing her tail. Hmmmmm.

We were all looking, trying to stay calm but very aware that the loss of this bracelet would be extremely sad after the week I'd already had. The car, both suitcases, my purse, counters, my jewelry box......nothing! Suddenly, Frank mentioned calling the restaurant in Davenport where we had stopped after he picked me up in Orlando.

"Hi, we were there around 7:00 for dinner. Our waitress was Shirley and I've lost a very important gold bracelet." Before I could launch into a description the manager said, "Yeah, we have it! It's in my office; someone turned it in about two hours ago."


Meagan and Nathan jumped into the car immediately and made a bee-line to Cracker Barrel. If it hadn't been so late, I would have gone myself and hugged Shirley, Tony the manager, the bus boy, the lady at the check-out, other customers...............

I was able to fall asleep with gratitude in my heart, a smile on my face and a special bracelet safely tucked away in my jewelry box. Whew. Miracles need to be marked; especially during difficult times. They remind us that God hears prayers and that we are never forgotten to Him!

(Several people asked that I post the prayer I wrote for the celebration service last Thursday. That can be found on the actual blog-site. Just type in or Embrace the Grace.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Several people asked that I post a copy of the prayer the Lord gave to me for the celebration service last Thursday. I've written it below.

I also wanted to give you the name of the ministry that Sandra has been working to develop - Home of Hope, Texas. She and Mark have obtained a lovely piece of property, north of Houston. And Mark has assured everyone that this "Dream" will be fulfilled.

Heavenly Father, we come today to celebrate the life that was loaned to us for, what seems to us, too short a time. We celebrate the Godly influence this woman was in each of our lives. We bring our broken and grieving hearts to Your hands and ask that You pour in the oil and wine needed now. Bring healing, O Great Physician.

And in our humbled position - longing to be fully submitted to Your perfect will - we know that questions will naturally come. Questions WILL come.

WHY? Why, O God? Why Sandra? Why now? And before the echo of that question can die away in our ears, we know that there will be no answer, this side of Heaven.

So by the urging of your Holy Spirit, we turn instead to the question: WHAT? What would you have us observe and glean from the life of this beautiful woman? Sandra lived such a fruitful, productive and passionate life; always busy with the furthering of your kingdom. What lessons do you want us to learn and put into place?

In this broken state, our ears are atuned to you perhaps even more keenly and our hearts ask: WHO? Who among us will step up to the front line of battle? Who will take up the banner which Sandra carried so fearlessly? Indeed a great void is now left in our world where this woman walked. Who among us are You tapping, even now, to step into that break in the line in order to close the gap?

Our tear-filled eyes scan the horizon and we cry out: WHERE? Where are you at work, O God? Where would You have us to stand? Where would you have us focus our efforts and the energy born of this deep emotion? Sandra trained us to follow "the manual" and there isn't one for this moment. We are leaning wholly on You.

We press our weary selves into You. We lay our confused heads on Your breast, Jesus and whisper: WHEN? When will the trumpet sound so that we who are alive and remain in You will be gathered with Sandra and the others which have gone on before? We do not grieve as those who have no hope, for we KNOW that we will see Sandra again. But the fact that she has preceded us makes Heaven seem so much more real. And we long for Your coming with a renewed fervency.

We peer through this dark glass with our limited understanding and strain to imagine Your daughter as she dances before Your throne; worshiping the Savior she has loved since childhood. Rejoicing, leaping, standing with that great cloud of witnesses and admonishing us, "Don't grieve for ME. I am home and it is wonderful!"

And Father, some of us cannot help but imagine that perhaps our dear friend is busy organizing and arranging those witnesses. We loved her for the gifts she brought to Your body.

Lord, we are not unwise concerning the schemes of darkness. We are fully aware that in the days ahead, Satan will tempt us again to question Your goodness by asking, "WHY?"

When he brings that to our minds we ask for the courage and strength to turn the question around and ask, "Why indeed!" Why did you love US so much that of all the people on the face of the earth You chose us to enjoy the privilege of knowing Sandra Bass Palmer as co-laborer, friend, aunt, sister, daughter, wife.

We stand in awe of Your loving kindness toward us. We rehearse to ourselves Your faithfulness. We ask for comfort, strength and healing. We ask all these things in the strong name of Christ Jesus our Lord, Savior, Healer and Soon Coming King!

Amen and Amen!