Wednesday, June 30, 2010



This is another new adventure for me in the "wide world of blogging". I'm sitting here in a little coffee shop (Jumpin' Java); dressed in my beach attire (big t-shirt, baggy shorts, and ball cap); trying desperately to not be distracted by all that's going on around me.

But because "people watching" is one of my favorite past times, staying focused is extremely difficult for me. This place is swarming with different! Smile.

The two young ladies manning the shop are adorable in their "young-ness"; using terms like "good vibes" and "karma"; sounding a little like "valley girls"; sporting prominently placed tattoos; and reminding me that I'm not in my 20's any longer. I'm also remembering Frank's words to me as I left the beach house to find some internet service. He gave me a bye kiss, adjusted my ball cap and said, "You're wearing beach attire, Honey. You don't look too bad." Interestingly, I hadn't asked him how I look. Hmmmmmm!

I apologize for not writing more often while we've been away; but lack of service has made it hard. Not that I haven't thought of writing because I definitely have. Even vacation has a rhythm of its own and many of our moments while away have been the sort that just beg to be shared.

I sat last night and thought of all the sounds I'm enjoying this week. (Oh my word! This smoothie I bought in order to not feel like a mooch while using their internet is VERY sweet! Ugh. Sorry, I told you I'm fighting to stay focused. Smile.)

Back to the sounds. For a couple of days, my sister and her family joined us. Two of their children are still young so there were the sounds of little voices, little feet, a little bickering, little kisses every morning and BIG squeeze-hugs. Ah, big family is wonderful! They left on Monday headed back to work.

And although the house itself is quiet now, I've loved sitting and drinking in the symphony happening all around us. There's the gentle cooing of doves morning and evening. The other birds sing, chirp and scold while the morning begins with cool breezes and beautiful colors. We're several blocks from the ocean's edge but we can hear the relentless splash of the surf and smell the salty spray. The porch swing squeaks, a small boat putters by out on the intra-coastal waterway, a door swings open and our next door neighbors speak in hushed tones on their own deck. Later in the day the wind will begin to blow; sometimes with great gusto. Yes, it is a symphony to be experienced!

Of course, I am made to wonder at the truth that this goes on all around me when I'm at home too. Only because the sounds have all become so familiar I tend to tune them out. What a shame!

When we lived here, we became acutely aware that there were really two worlds going on at all times. There was the "vacation world" that involved families and friends who were here for one week a year and tried to pack all the excitement, joy, relaxation, fun and adventure they possibly could into seven short days! (Whew, makes me tired to think of it.) Then there was the "working world" which was comprised of people like ourselves who lived here year-round and had to continue with our routine lives while being sensitive to the fact that seemingly everyone around us was in party mode. Quite the juggling act.

(Well, I'm sure I had perfectly lovely thought that would tie all this rambling together for you friends today. Unfortunately, the radio station which is the selection of the workers here at Jumpin' Java has caused me to completely forget it; all I can hear is something that sounds like their singing about "Single Ladies" - a real toe tapper actually. Smile.)

I'll close out now before my battery dies. Hopefully, we'll be back on track next week.

Oh yeah, I remember now. Take a minute to listen with new ears to the sounds around you today; you just may be surprised at what you learn. I know I'm in a state of surprise right now! Smile.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Friendship Cake

This is our last morning to be "in the clouds". As soon as the towels dry and the car is packed, we will head out for the second half of our vacation time. And that will be spent in Ocean Isle Beach where we pastored for six years.

Frank and I sat on the porch this morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and watched as the clouds literally swirled in to play around the mountains. For a long time they were simply wisps dancing in between the monstrous land; later the clouds came together to entirely blanket the northern side. Probably in the valley below those clouds it appeared rather dark and stormy. But above all this "cumulus cavorting" (where we were sitting,) the sun was still shining and the breezes were exquisite. Yes, another sermon illustration to be sure. It's truly all about perspective.

We also had a delightful moment of a different sort yesterday. As I mentioned yesterday, the cabin we've been blessed to enjoy is relatively close to the little community where we first pastored some twenty-eight years ago. We lived in a parsonage right by the church and had the privilege of becoming friends with a few of the neighbors.

One dear lady in particular made a real effort to reach out to us soon after we had moved in. Nell Cagle was a hard-working, mountain woman with calloused hands and an extremely tender heart. She was still working full-time at the local factory and doing alterations in the evenings but she made time to "see" us as we tried to set up house across from her.

She has told us many times that she kept watching me and could just tell that I was very lonely. (I was a Floridian through and through. We moved in the winter just as it started snowing; I didn't even own a pair of closed-toe shoes. The mountain culture is very distinct and I just kept making mistakes; it was a tough transition.) She said that one day the Lord spoke to her to take a cake over and introduce herself to that young couple.

For us, she was an angel wrapped up in a sixty year old body! (We were in our early twenties at that time; now I know she wasn't as old as I thought! Smile.) Mrs. Cagle became our home away from home. We ate at her table often: chicken and dumplings, canned green beans from her garden, fluffy biscuits slathered with golden honey. She made a beautiful blue maternity dress for me when we found out I was expecting Kristin. She came over in the snow to pray with us before we left for the hospital. And she cried when we moved away after two years.

Because of her generous love toward us, we've always wanted to stop by and visit if we get close to this area. Hugs are offered, we catch up on life, we laugh, we remember, we pray and slip away. It has been several years since we last saw Mrs. Cagle and we weren't even certain she still lived across the street from the church (which has grown and now has a lovely new sanctuary.)

But we took a chance yesterday and when we pulled up in her yard she cautiously peeked out her screen door. When she recognized Frank, her face lit up like a child's on Christmas. We only spent half an hour with her and at ninety, she does most of the talking now. We prayed for her before leaving, she now has a pretty serious heart condition that the doctors say is inoperable.

Sitting in her humble home, I was reminded of what true wealth means. Friendship extended always manages to come back around and usually in larger quantities. She followed us out to the car and her farewell hugs were a little longer this time. She patted our faces with those precious calloused hands and said, "I'm looking forward to going home just as soon as the Good Lord is ready. When you hear about it, just lift your hands and say, 'Thank you Lord for bringing Nell home.' You'll never know what your visit has meant to me today!"

Hmmmmmm! And to think, it all started because a lonely-looking girl needed a slice of homemade cake.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wish You Were Here!

(Well, this is the third time I've tried to write this post. Hopefully, it will be "third time's the charm"; but we shall see. The internet here is not wireless so I've lost the last two writings. Here goes nothin'. Smile.)

Maybe it would be more accurate to say, wish you were near here. I must admit that Frank and I are enjoying the solitude with only the birds, wind and rain as company.

For a couple of years now, friends of ours have been encouraging us to come up to the Great Smokey Mountains and enjoy the use of their cabin. We finally were able to leave on Tuesday and let me tell you, we are praying blessing on our dear friends for this incredible gift!

Of course, my backside is also acutely aware of the fact that it is an e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y long way from Florida to these mountains. The drive was almost eleven hours of steady driving. We aren't like some travelers who dawdle along the way. We view travel as something to be conquered: drive hard; stop only to refuel, grab food, empty bladders; GO! (Makes you want to sign up for our next road trip,right?! Smile.)

But the long journey was well worth the end result. Our friends call their cabin "Master's View" and it is indeed aptly named. The deck offers an incredible view of the valley below; we've eaten every meal out here since arriving. The drive up the mountain takes about eight minutes and requires the navigation of some twenty "switchbacks".

I was driving when we first arrived and Frank laughed out loud at me asking was it at all possible for me to hug the mountain any closer. I ignored him and kept driving close to the left edge; the right edge felt too treacherous for me!

The morning breezes are cool, calling for a lap quilt. A rain storm blew in yesterday with clouds so thick they completely obscured anything beyond twenty feet past the railing. I continue to watch birds flying below us. Baby, we are UP here! And I couldn't be more happy. (Except for the cold I'm fighting off. That's what Puffs tissues and Benadryl are for, right?)

This location lends itself to numerous sermon illustrations which I'll save for when we return home. But there is one thought I'd like to share with you, dear readers.

Our drive here took us through a location where Frank and I served as pastors almost twenty-nine years ago. (We were mere babies; in many senses of the word. Smile.) As we passed familiar landmarks, memories began to tumble around in my head. Some joyful; some not.

But being blessed with the ability to look back on those scenes from this vantage point was really powerful. I pondered how masterfully God took the dark threads of difficulty and wove them together with the brighter threads of great joy to create a much richer tapestry. Difficulty actually served to highlight the joys!

Kind of reminds you of the verse, "He will work all things together for our good." And trust the older lady, He really does!!

Yes, I do wish you were sitting on the deck of a cabin near here delighting with me in this spectacular vista. But no matter where you find yourself sitting today, the position of perspective can bring great peace.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Change of Plan

When preparing to write this afternoon the phrase came to me, "The best laid plans of mice and men....." but I couldn't for the life of me remember who had written the phrase I've so often quoted.

This sent me on a quest to locate the origin and completion of said quote. (Of course, this type of activity would be impossible if we hadn't already started our vacation today.) Thanks to I'm able to report to you that most of us are aware of this quote because of the book by John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men. However, Mr. Steinbeck is not the originator of this statement. (Que suspicious sounding organ music.)

It actually comes from a poem written by Robert Burns in the 1700's; based loosely on an experience he had when inadvertently plowing up the winter nest of a field mouse. (I hear the collective "hmmmmm" all the way over here in Winter Haven. Smile.) No significance to all this literary rambling - just interesting to me in an odd way.

At any rate, the report of today is that for some reason the Lord has allowed us to be temporarily delayed in heading out for vacation. Our main vehicle is experiencing some technical difficulties. The first problem came up on Friday afternoon; just as Frank was coming back to the church to be slimed. (Yes, the girls won and Pastor Frank was the "slim - ie"! Whew, dodged that bullet.) He was able to take the car to our mechanic but he doesn't work on Saturdays. So we planned to leave around 10:00 this morning.

Fortunately, once the mechanic had the electrical problem resolved he discovered that our air conditioner was not functioning properly. FORTUNATELY?! Yes, I chose that word because we try really hard to choose to see "interruptions" in our scheduling as having purpose.

For example - the electrical problem happened while Frank was driving and he was only ten miles from our mechanic at the time. While this was naturally frustrating, we had to remind ourselves that just 24 hours earlier I was navigating a rain storm on I-4 in bumper to bumper traffic coming home from Orlando; post-op appointment with Meagan's surgeon.

And it's true that we had our instant gourmet coffee already packed and ready for use on the beautiful front porch overlooking our mountain destination (which we would have reached right about, ummmm, NOW.) But we're also thankful that something as major as our air conditioner malfunctioned near the guy who installed it! There is always a flip side of the coin.

Don't get me wrong, I am disappointed. And sometimes disappointment causes me to stomp and flail and say hateful things to anyone who happens to get in my way! But that really does little or no good and I usually feel worse after such a temper tantrum. So........ getting older and realizing these things has some benefits I suppose.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go askew!" But here's to counting the blessings instead of the aggravations.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Honoring Men

To all the men brave enough to read Embrace the Grace (also to those who endure it by listening to their wives read to them - smile) I want to say HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!

This has turned into somewhat of a men's weekend for us. The men shouldered the tear down of all the staging necessary for VBS. They gathered Saturday morning to help a family in our church with an emergency move. Many of our men and younger guys trekked out to the middle of a farm last night for mentoring time. This morning at 7:30 we were putting the finishing touches on our annual Father's Day Breakfast honoring dads. Frank preached a wonderful sermon challenging and encouraging men. And now we'll all gather for dinner at Joy and John's house (I l-o-v-e having married children that like to cook!)

That exceedingly long paragraph was much needed as our society today finds so little to celebrate in regards to the men of our world. Frank concluded our service this morning in a very unusual way. He asked for all the young people to come to the center of the auditorium. He then asked that the men form a circle around them. Finally, the ladies were to encircle the men.

(Cute side note: the men in the room actually outnumbered the women as many of our ladies were serving in nursery, children's church, etc. After surveying the outer circle Frank loudly announced, "Are we out of women?" With a wife and three daughters, Frank has never been out of women! Everyone enjoyed a good chuckle.)

Frank asked that the men begin to pray for the young people and that the women pray for the men. It was an extremely touching and powerful moment for our congregation. Far too often men are the topic of ridicule and jokes; it was wonderful to acknowledge their position of honor for a change. There were plenty of tears (both masculine and feminine) I assure you.

I'll close today with a final story from VBS which I heard this morning. Muhammad is an adorable little guy who is eight years old with bright eyes and a quick mind. He sat on the front row almost every night.

While everyone was cleaning up Friday evening, one of our teenagers stepped outside for just a moment. Suddenly he spotted Muhammad coming back across our parking area on his bicycle. When he got closer, Will realized that he was crying. Apparently soon after he got home, his family became embroiled in a huge fight. Muhammad ran out of the house, got on his bicycle and came back to a place where he knew he would be safe.

Because Will had been one of our helpers all week, Muhammad knew him. Will was able to kneel down and put his arm around the little guy until he could finish crying. Words of counsel and wisdom weren't necessary at that moment. Muhammad only needed a safe spot. Thank heavens he found it at the church.

May church be the "safe place" for us all! Special blessings to all the men in our lives.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Encouraging Words

Tonight is the final night of VBS 2010 at Garden Grove Church and what a week this has been.

Many of the children have given their hearts to Jesus, some have been reaffirmed in their commitment and some are talking to us about how to tell others about His love. (Our theme: Walk with Him; Hear His voice; Answer His call; Tell the world.) We should gain a few "neighborhood missionaries" from this one. Ms. Kristin made very clear in the message last night that we each tell someone in our world - that is obeying the call. Definitely do-able!

It has also been fun to watch our "regular attenders." Sisters like Brenna and Brook; Alana and Kylee - cousins like Ethan and William. GGC is part of everyday life for them. These are children who will probably have the same kind of drug problems I had as a teen-ager. I was drug to church on Sunday morning; drug to church on Sunday night; drug to church on Wednesday; drug to church for revival services.......... Smile.

I've often said that I was a church goer before I was even born! (Mom and Dad met in church; Eastside Assembly of God Church was the epicenter of our social existence.) And now, all these many years later, I'm so glad that was my story. It has become the story of my own children. And it appears, will be the story of my grandchildren.

For someone to be saved out of a life of sin is a marvelous thing. But for anyone to be saved from a life of sin is just as miraculous, I believe. So we do our best to provide eternal truth in kid-friendly packaging.

Thus, I or my husband will stand tonight under the slime bucket willingly. (Well, if it ends up being me, I will sort of willingly stand under the bucket. Smile.) Because I saw the sheer delight in Lexie's eyes last night as she excitedly reported that they had brought five visitors to put the girls ahead in points. (Way ahead, I hope!) And because I know that Caleb is making calls, inviting friends in order to help the points on the boys' side.

Perhaps this would be a good time to try and learn how to post pictures with my blog. (Please remember that you are reading the words of a severely techie-handicapped individual.)

There really is great joy for us in knowing that somewhere in that crowd of rowdy children there is one who is being "drug to church" consistently that will very likely grow up to be "just like Ms. Kristin" or "just like Pastor Frank." And that gives me great hope!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let's Celebrate

Nina has accepted Christ as her Savior!

That is the most fantastic news that can be shared with anyone today. In fact, I really regret that CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX were unable to carry the story because in reality, Nina's decision trumps any other news that could be reported. Don't you think?

Nina is a beautiful little girl that sporadically comes to our church; she lives somewhere in the neighborhood behind us. I say "somewhere" because we don't know exactly which house each of these precious children lives in as the parents prefer we not get too close.

It seems that Neuhart (a gorgeous little girl who is only eleven) is the self-appointed guardian for many of our neighborhood children. She herds them like a mama cat and let me tell you, when she snaps her skinny little fingers and gives one of them "the look" they jump in line! Smile.

Thankfully, for the past couple of years, Neuhart has been herding different ones to our church. That doesn't mean she comes regularly to services. No, that would be too much for her family which we believe to be of Muslim influence. But she comes as often as she can; especially for things like VBS and Break Your Fall. (The time-consuming, expensive type of outreaches that most often cause us to wonder if they are worth all the effort.)

It's also not unusual in the summer months or late afternoons for Frank to be working on a sermon and hear a tapping on the back door of his office. When he looks out, there is Neuhart with a few of the children gathered around. They've just stopped by in the midst of their wanderings to say "Hi."

She ushers them all into his office and beams as Pastor Frank gets each of their names, teases them a little and offers a hug to each one who asks. He complements Neuhart for being the "leader extraordinaire" that she is and then they're on their way. While his sermon preparation is important, he always stops gladly for this moment because it is ministry in its purest form. And some weeks, this is our only contact with Neuhart.

During VBS, Neuhart has been faithful to gather a group each evening and make the trek over to the church on the corner. (That's us.) Nina has been in that group all week. Each night Nina has raised her hand for prayer during the altar time and someone on our team has prayed with her. Last night, I happened to be the one sitting closest to her and was privileged to ask if she was ready to ask Jesus into her heart.

Tears began to slowly drip from her beautiful brown eyes as she simply nodded her head. We prayed a simple prayer together and after Ms. Kristin dismissed everyone, I sat with Nina for a few minutes talking about what her decision meant. True to form, Neuhart appeared from nowhere to sit with us; she gave Nina a big hug and patted her arm. After I prayed blessing on them both, they jumped up and got in line to redeem their prize tickets just like all the other kids. No fanfare, no big tadoo, just a natural response to life's most important question.

The wonderful thing is that Nina's story is being quietly repeated all over our auditorium this week; all over our city at other VBS's this month; all over our country this summer. I choose to believe that there is hope for our world because people are still coming to know Christ as Savior, Lord and dearest Friend. Yep, Matt Lauer should have been there to report it; but since he couldn't I'll share it with you. Let the celebration begin!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Day in the Life

This post is simply for the purpose of pulling back the "lovely lace curtain" that graces the window of a typical pastor's wife's tidy little life. (If you've read this blog more than twice, you are already smiling at the sarcasm spread thick like peanut butter in that sentence.)

Fortunately, the days are long gone when people supposed that pastors only really work one day a week. And our dear congregation tend to have a totally opposite view; regularly encouraging us to take some time to breathe.

While my day yesterday wasn't exactly normal, it did contain elements that could be found in every pastor's day - several days a week - and for some pastors, even more. So I thought you might enjoy a brief recap.

4:00 AM - Wide awake so I'd might as well get up and have some quiet time. Great opportunity for prayer interrupted only by Gracie and Bella.
6:00 AM - Ready to blog! Woo Hoo!
7:20 AM - Opt out of attending minister's breakfast meeting (sent my dad with Frank instead. smile.) Begin gathering ingredients for dinner. (My day to prepare dinner for the VBS team.)
Get dressed, straighten house, make a couple of calls, catch ride to office.
10:00 AM - Meet Judy for trip to Home Depot. (We are putting in a shower at the church to accommodate our upcoming youth missions event; the team will be sleeping at the church.) Ninety minutes spent selecting faucets, lighting fixtures, vanity, etc. (Carefully balancing the three elements critical to any church project: Quality, Appearance, COST!) Thirty minutes spent at service desk waiting p-a-t-i-e-n-t-l-y for someone to verify our tax exemption. AHHGGG!
Third phone call while there, "Sheri, are you guys almost here? The electrician needs those things now!"
12:30 PM - QUICKLY unload everything at the church so Judy can make her next appointment. Return phones calls. Dash across street to spend quality time with my dad over a sandwich. Back to the office.
1:30 PM - Two rather sticky meetings back to back. (Thankful for early morning quiet time! Needed the peace and wisdom from those moments. Smile.)
3:30 PM - Head to kitchen to prepare sloppy joes for dinner. OH NO! Hamburger meet is still frozen!! Okay, stay calm. Order pizza! Electrician says I have the wrong light for the shower area and need to run exchange it. Kristin needs two more items from Wal-mart for VBS and since I'm picking up pizza in 45 minutes can I grab those things too? (Do you hear the music of the 1812 Overture in your head yet?) Spend some quality time with my sister on the phone while running these errands.
4:45 PM - Throw pizza, drinks and some salad elements in the door for the VBS team; dash on to Home Depot for light exchange.
5:10 PM - Run into Leonard who helped us at Home Depot in the morning. He helps me locate the light I need; becomes curious about our project; loves the idea that our youth group will be volunteering in our city; new to the area; looking for a church; will probably visit. (Thank you, Lord for helping me be patient and polite when he was working on our tax exempt info earlier.)
5:50 PM - Throw light at electrician. (Smile.) Run down to the auditorium just after service has started. Participate fully in VBS: Sing, Jump, Clap, Yell, SMILE, High-five, Hug Little Ones, etc., etc.
8:30 PM - Leave early so I can ride home with my dad. Enjoy a can of tuna and a summer tomato! Yuuummm.
10:00 PM - Can't stay awake, fading fast, good-night!

There you have it! Yep, you knew it all along, didn't you? Most pastors have crazy lives just like you do. So, when they announce that they'll be out of town for a few days this summer you can give them a big hug, a knowing smile and tell them to enjoy themselves. Hope your day is blessed!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moving Forward

The week-end has come and gone; as has May it seems. I can hardly believe it is the MIDDLE of June. The fifteenth! Summer is upon us. Aren't you glad you stopped by today so I could give you a calendar update? "Thank you, Captain Obvious!"

April is one of my favorite months for this very reason. By the time April rolls around, we usually have Christmas well behind us. (Although I must confess that this year my Christmas village stayed on the decorator ledge until Memorial Day due to surgeries, major church events and other such. John urged me to just leave it up until next Christmas! Sigh.) Anyway, April usually marks a moment to breathe because all major obligations are fulfilled and the "summer push" hasn't yet arrived.

Well, that's how it usually goes. This year......not so much. And here we are at the half-way point of half the year 2010! Christmas will be here before we know it; I probably should have listened to John. Smile.

Last night was the beginning of one of our highlight moments in the year - VBS! That's right, Vacation Bible School 2010 opened last night with a bang. The Lord gave a great theme to Kristin for this year, "Say What!" (Walk with Him; Hear His Voice; Answer His Call; Tell the World. Isn't that ingenious?!) Our theme for this year at the church is "Tell the Story;" so this coordinates beautifully.

She and our young adults pastor (Amanda) have worked together developing the theme. Games were chosen, scriptures selected, sample crafts constructed, skits were written, songs were learned. Even the grand prize for most visitors coordinates with the bright, cityscape background built by Ed, one of our church members. The team of nearly 35 workers flowed together flawlessly last night. And many of the children chose to ask Christ into their hearts when given the opportunity. A fabulous evening!

Sometimes we wonder if all the work is worth the effort and the exhaustion that surely follows. But last night I watched Kendall (who's twelve) on stage helping Ms. Kristin with worship. She was singing loudly, waving her arms with enthusiasm, encouraging the kids to sing. All the while, the huge smile on her face gave no indication of how nervous she might be in front of everyone. And I suddenly had tears in my eyes.

See, Kendall and her brother were invited to our first VBS five years ago. A friend of hers wanted to win the grand prize! As a result of that invitation, Kendall's family began attending our church. They were all pretty quiet - for about a year. Then Cody, her brother, started getting comfortable and has become a great influence in our youth group; he has a lead role in the VBS skits this year. Kendall's dad now leads our men's ministry and her mom was responsible for feeding our entire team last night.

Watching Kendall and processing those thoughts, made it easier for me to jump and sing and high-five little ones even though my body was tired. We never know whose life will be touched in a year. Hopefully, many. Yep, it's definitely worth the effort!

Oh and I almost forgot, every year the girls' team competes against the boys' team for points. At the end of the week, an adult is "slimed" on behalf of the losing team. This is a rather disgusting ritual as the recipe for the slime is really pretty gross; which the kids LOVE. (Take one five gallon bucket. Fill halfway with water. Add several boxes of pistachio pudding, liberal amounts of baby oil, multiple jars of apple sauce and copious quantities of creamed corn. Stir.)

This horrid concoction is then carried up a ladder by the adult from the winning side, balanced precariously over the head of the losing team representative and at the end of a loud countdown, poured out on the designated individual accompanied by the cheers, laughter and screams of delighted students!

This year - our fifth year - the designated "slime-ies" had to be extra special, we were told. Adults that would really spur the kids to participate. Who could possibly fill that role?! You guessed it - Pastor Frank and Pastor Sheri. Is it too late to ask that you send in your pennies to help the girls' team win?!! Smile.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Power Surges, Insomnia and Other Inconveniences

"Well I Never!"

(Classic southern expression used to denote extreme surprise or dismay!)

I can not remember the last time I slept so late as today; however, the story involved is kinda funny. It seems that at around the half-century mark of most women's lives we begin to experience power surges in our maturing bodies. (I've also heard this phenomenon referred to as hot flashes but I much prefer power surge.)

For me, it feels like someone has sneaked surreptitiously into my chest cavity and without so much as a single warning, they flip the switch on a radiant heater that immediately shoots a wave up toward my head and another down toward my stomach. A tingling sensation often accompanies this occurrence which feels like little electrical impulses dashing madly down my arms.

When this takes place and wakes me from a dead sleep, I am forced to quickly remind myself, "It's only a Power Surge, Sheri. Do NOT panic. You are NOT in the middle of a serious medical anomaly of any sort. Throw the covers aside and take a calming breath - NOW!" The tricky part is in trying to avoid hitting or waking Frank with all my wild flailing and fanning. (Of course, he is burrowed deeply under the covers trying to keep warm in the arctic temperatures of our bedroom.) What to do?!

Power surges usually begin to subside almost as quickly as they peak. But while you are "riding the wave" of a surge - Whoa, Nellie! I'm still looking for a mental exercise to keep me engaged while in the midst of this experience. There seemed to be a lot more public information available when my uniquely feminine medical questions centered on contractions, birthing and such. Hmmmm, maybe women struggle with admitting that they have hit the half-century mark; having babies certainly was a lot more fun.

Anyway, I experienced several power surges last night that began around 2:00 am and kept me awake until around 5:30 at which time I was finally able to dose back off to sleep! And that's why I slept until 9:00 this morning. Thank heavens it was my day off and I had the luxury of doing that.

I was talking with a friend last week about this issue of insomnia and surges. We decided that if we could create a cover system containing weighted edges, we could market them to women like ourselves as the newest thing in exercise equipment. Just think about it. You lift the covers off yourself, you fan the covers, you cool down and pull the covers back over yourself. Wait one hour and repeat. By the time one engaged in this activity several times through the night over the course of several years, one could build incredible biceps simply by lifting and moving the weighted coverings.

This idea really could be bigger than Suzanne Somer's Thigh Master; which was purchased by unsuspecting, misinformed husbands all over the country for their wives and girlfriends. (Contact us as soon as possible if you want in on the ground level.) Smile.

Last night's foray into middle age left me off-kilter today and I'm afraid that I made almost no progress on the "Day-off Projects" list I'd made for myself. However, I have found the middle of the night to be a great time for uninterrupted prayer and meditation. The real test has been being pleasant the next day without sleep. Great time to quote, "....his grace is sufficient..."

Younger readers will no doubt find this description somewhat amusing and ponder what their own responses will be when middle age catches up to them many decades down the road. The rest of us are aware that this has arrived via the "fast-forward" button on life's remote. Who knows, maybe there will be a cure for power surges one day. Until then, flip the covers and keep a fan handy. Smile.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


What an encouragement!

When my dear friend, Becky began encouraging (pushing, prodding, urging! smile) me to blog, I had no idea that I would be the one to benefit so much from the effort! The comments you all have left over the past few days have been such a lift for my heart. Thank you! Thank you!

Isn't it amazing that we find strength for the journey when we know there is company on the road? Some who have been there ahead of me and others who are walking in transition right now; but each had great "perspective" to offer. A couple of you helped me to identify that part of the struggle is in trying to see my dad as an individual and not as still part of "mom and dad". So very true!

"Cerilin" offered some of what we call straight-up advice, "Remember that your dad's happiness is more important than your discomfort." Not candy-coated but definitely valuable counsel. And I appreciate it.

I'm acutely aware that reactions/responses at this early stage of transition are very important. So receiving this advice kind of feels like listening to the guides when you're getting ready to travel down a river with rapids. You know they have been there and what they are telling you had better stay in your brain so that in the critical moments you'll be able to respond appropriately. Whew!

Pam told about helping her dad move to a new home this past week-end because he just couldn't live there with her mom gone. Isn't it true that we never really know what is going on in someone else's life by just looking at their face? Helps me remember to be a little more patient with others around me.

I had a great story to share with you but I'll save that for another time. It seemed more important this morning to say thank you. Thanks for taking time to comment, for offering prayers and for taking time to read. I've always loved the phrase, "Joy in the Journey." But now, more than ever, I know that the joy truly comes from linking arms with others along the way and saying, "C'mon friend, together we can do this and do it well!"

Monday, June 7, 2010


Change is inevitable! Our response to change is the only thing we can control. My spin, Chuck Swindoll's expression. I'm surely glad that there are smarter people than me around so I can read their thoughts of wisdom, nod my head in agreement and quote them to others. Smile.

The update is simple and will be quick as I need to get ready for Monday morning at the office. We did indeed meet the "special lady" and if I had been introduced to her at a conference or some other event I would have immediately liked her I'm sure. So, Frank is helping me to keep that attitude in the forefront of my thinking!

As it happened, we were also on hand for the first meeting between one of her children and my dad. (Could it get any thicker?! Deep sigh.) In the middle of that looooong hour, we were once again made thankful for babies. S.L. ("Special Lady") has a three year old granddaughter who is too cute for her own good. And she did an excellent job of keeping us entertained; allowing our focus to be diverted from the awkwardness of the moment.

S.L. also made it through the family fish fry just fine (yes, I do like alliteration). And so did we!

Frank had packed the car before anyone arrived so we made a quick exit as everything was wrapping up. As soon as we reached the interstate and reliable phone reception, I began a lengthy report for my sister. We turned the "diamond" every which way; tried to reassure each other that everything will be just fine; got off the phone and both cried. Steel Magnolias are only so tough. Smile.

That's pretty much it. Yesterday at church I was thankful for friends like Shirley who are able to look at you and just "know" without asking any questions. When they hug you, the love is genuine; restorative. When those friends make eye contact, there is an entire Hallmark card written in their expression. Hmmmm, makes you wonder if you are a friend like that to someone, doesn't it? But that's material for another post.

One other thing, if you've successfully walked through a similar situation (or even if it was unsuccessful and you've gained helpful insights - smile) I'd love to hear about your experience. I'm very open to instruction!

Hope your week is abundant!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Too Personal?

(This was written on Friday morning 6-4-10. Frank and I were visiting my dad in north FL and he has no internet service. Hence the posting delay. I'll have an update soon.)

There are moments in this blogging journey that present a bit of a challenge for me. I don't exactly know the normally accepted "blogging boundaries." I mean, I'm sure you can imagine the dilemma. The blogs that I read are enjoyable because they are personal and I feel that I know the writer better after reading each post.

But just what qualifies as tooooo personal? Hence, my dilemma this morning.

However, I've come to feel that those of you who indulge my "ramblings" by actually reading them are like friends. And I've always been thankful for and relied on my friends. So here goes.....

This morning I'm sitting in the prayer chair of my very own little mama!

I've read from her devotional Bible which still sits on the table by her chair. I've petted her scrappy little three-legged beagle. (And oh yes, she DID call the dog "Tripod." Mom never allowed a comedic opportunity to pass!) I'm looking out the windows on the sun porch she designed. I'm listening to the birds sing, the squirrels forage and the morning news which Dad has on in the adjoining room at a level adequate for his hearing! Smile.

I'm drinking coffee from one of her favorite cups as I write. Her pin cushion is sitting here right where she left it along with one of the blue "brush" curlers she used every Saturday night. I am immersed in the joy of being able to touch things she touched; drink in views she relished; experience sounds that delighted her.

The only thing missing is a visit from hummingbirds - Mom always kept feeders up during the season. And, of course.........Mama.

But I opened by expressing to you that I have a dilemma.

Today I will meet a lady that has become a special friend to my widower dad. (Just writing that requires a pause so I can allow the tears in my eyes a moment to clear.)

My parents married young and I was born two weeks before their first anniversary. I'm glad to know that I was planned by God because Mom and Dad certainly did not plan for a baby that soon! Smile.

All that to say: Dad is a young-looking 72. He'll tell you in a heartbeat that Mom fed him well and always took care of him; that's why he enjoys excellent health. He may even live to be 100. And who wants to be all alone for so many years? Dad has spent eighteen long, lonely months with grief as his only daily company. Now, he has turned a corner and we must go there with him.

(Told you this is a tough one.)

Emotions are tumbling inside me much like the contents of a cement mixer would. While making the trip to north FL last night, Frank valiantly waded into the middle of my "stuff" and tried to help me sort some things.

We discussed what's real and what's only imagined. We talked about fear of the unknown. We flagged some potentially dangerous "landmine topics" to avoid at all costs. We acknowledged that Dad deserves to be happy . And we took time to pray; asking God to give us wisdom and to be the shield around my grieving heart.

There will be a meeting between just the four of us some time today. Then tomorrow, at the annual family fish fry, this lady will be introduced to most of my Dad's eight siblings. All eyes will be acutely watching to catch any and all reactions which could be later discussed and dissected. (Sound like family you know? Smile.)

Yep, this post is a soul-baring moment for sure. But this is where I find myself and I guess that it's part of the point in blogging. So there you have it. Oh, one request. If you think of it would you just send up a little prayer for peace?

Funny, that's the thing Mom held to through all the long years of her battle with cancer. I can almost hear her thick southern drawl, laced with strong determination -

" 'Peace be still', Sheri. That's what the Lord keeps whispering to me. And that's what I just keep telling myself. 'Peace, be still!' "

Thanks for the prayers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Anniversary

Ah, dear readers. Today's post will, of necessity, be a bit nostalgic.

Today marks eighteen months since my precious mom went home to be with the Lord.

Isn't it interesting the "anniversaries" you mark after losing someone so dear? And in the mind of the one grieving, all the world should be aware of these as well. They seldom are. And so you observe the moment by yourself; remember the one you still love even though their chair is empty; rehearse things that you appreciated; things that made you laugh; things that made you feel loved in return.

Although Mom had fought cancer for almost thirteen years, her actual passing was very sudden and caught us all off guard. In October she was "just fine". In November, brain tumors were discovered. And on December 2nd she went home, leaving everyone in shock.

During these eighteen months, Frank and I have walked through several other losses of ones we loved dearly. Seven weeks after Mom, her best friend (and my 'nother mother) passed away. Mom and Jimmie Lee had been friends for almost forty years. It just made sense that they would want to explore Heaven together. Smile.

We lost Andy in May. He was like a younger brother and only 42. There was a young mom in our congregation who died suddenly in September leaving a husband and three girls just hitting their teen years. Sister Stanley, who had been Frank's Sunday school teacher/mentor right after he was saved. And just six weeks ago, Sandra Bass-Palmer.

That's a lot of "Home Goings" in such a short time. And we add to that list the usual funerals associated with the fact that we are pastors. One thing's for sure, Heaven seems very real to me these days!

I woke pretty early this morning and lay pondering all this for quite some time. Several things have been "balm" for my heart during this season. I'd like to share them with you in hopes that they may be a comfort to you at some point, too.

  • Each day is a gift to be treasured! Live to the full, love completely, forgive quickly. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring.
  • I had developed a habit many years ago of calling Mom every Saturday. We never lived close to one another and that Saturday phone call (sometimes short, sometimes long) was our connection point. When she died so unexpectedly, I didn't have to struggle with guilt. Mileage had never separated us.
  • Bitterness and unforgiveness are a waste of your time and energy.
  • Condolences offered, really do matter so much more than I had ever imagined. The form you choose is unimportant (a hug, card, flowers, letter, phone call); your expression of care is what will be remembered.
  • I had read that no matter what your relationship has been, you will miss your parents when they are gone. And the missing never completely goes away. Amen to that!
  • We who believe in Christ, do not grieve without hope. I will see all of these loved ones again. They are still very much alive; their address has simply changed.
  • The first scripture passage Mom taught me when I was only four has even more meaning for me forty-eight years later. John 14 says, "Let not your heart be troubled...." it goes on to talk about heaven and the promise that we will go there. How appropriate!
  • Things are irrelevant - people are important!

Those are just some of the thoughts rambling around in my little brunette head this morning. Celebrate the ones in your life that you love today. You will not regret it! Smile.