Saturday, July 31, 2010

Birthday Jeans

So, I promised you a funny story. Actually I think I used the word "hysterical" (because to me it is). This should at least give you a smile and maybe even a chuckle.

Those of you who regularly read Embrace the Grace are aware that I am in the midst of a great battle. A battle in which many my age seem to be similarly engaged. It is, quite simply, the Battle of the Bulge!

Yes, I've been guilty of laughing through the years at the "Chest of Drawers Disease" joke. (You know, the one that goes - "My (husband, dad, uncle, friend) has chest of drawers disease. His chest has fallen into his drawers.") But if I had only known that women have their own unique difficulties after fifty, I would never have laughed! (Well, maybe not as much. Smile.)

Now, please understand that I'm one of those women who never experienced the little, teeny, cute-sie, cheer leader phase of life. My nick name in middle school was "Big Woman." Now there's a clue for you! I've tried to keep my eating under control most of my life because I knew the consequences of veering from that path would be both swift and dire.

But it seems that my metabolism which has s-l-o-w-l-y trudged along with me all these years, has come to a complete halt! And no amount of coaxing, walking, jumping, sweating, nor even "Zumba-ing" can get it moving again.

So, I have resorted to camouflage dressing. (Which is definitely an acquired art form as you will see.)

I'm constantly on the look-out for articles of clothing which offer maximum coverage for minimum expense. Consequently, when I spotted the tummy-control jeans at Sam's a few weeks ago, I just knew that I had struck gold. The label attached to the jeans touted their ability to work all manner of miracles using attractive words like: slim, reduce, tighten, firm......... they do everything but walk on the water for you! AND they were only $19.95!!!

Kristin happened to be with me and she immediately suggested that I buy a pair (or five). But I didn't want to spend the twenty dollars, so I gave her a subtle hint that sounded something like this: "My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. Tell your dad that I would like a pair." Smooth, huh?!

And so it was that on the day my birth was to be celebrated, I opened a lovely gift bag that amazingly happened to contain the very pair of miracle-working, tummy-tucking jeans to which I had so covertly alluded. Incredible!

Usually, in the Hawley household, all new purchases or gifts of clothing must be modeled immediately for the ooooo-ing and ahhhh-ing pleasure of those gathered. Fortunately, that did not take place this time. I was able to try on the jeans the next morning with no one around. And I now recognize that as a gift from heaven.

After a minimal amount of huffing, puffing, tugging, breath-holding, and standing tall, I managed to successfully zip the new jeans. And friends, IT WAS TRULY AMAZING!! (Cue heavenly sounding music with angelic "AHHHHH!" wavering in the background.) I looked down and was indeed able to run my hands over a totally taut tummy! I could hardly believe my eyes - it was like the greatest disappearing act of all time and all for only twenty bucks! I immediately made plans to contact the company and find out if they also made skirts suitable for Sunday wear.

But as with all magic tricks, there is the missing element of the unknown. They are called "illusions" for a reason. The laws of physics will not be denied and as we learned in Mr. Wolf's biology class so long ago, "For every action there is an equal and opposite RE-Action!" And so it was with the jeans.

My tummy had disappeared alright! But when I looked into the mirror, I discovered to my horror (cue the frightening horror music) that it had RE-Appeared in the form of a mudgey, pudgey, additional spare tire just above the waist band of the miracle jeans. (I'm aware that "mudgey" and "pudgey" are not real words but there don't seem to be real words to describe what I was seeing.) Ah, the harsh light of reality!

So, in my state of disappointment, I began the task of extricating myself from the tummy-tucking-travesty jeans. My wise family did not request visual proof of the fact that the jeans failed miserably. Once they stopped smiling at the verbal picture I painted for them, we all decided that it would be best to simply return the jeans to Sam's. They also vetoed my plan of standing next to the display with a sign stating: "These jeans are a cruel hoax!" It's good to have family.

You'll be happy to know that I've bought a pair of shoes instead! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Avoiding Chaos

It's no good when I let myself slide too long on posting! That's why I appreciate all those who keep me accountable.

The problem is that I'm trying to be more diligent about walking and that has to happen in the early mornings around here. Heat stroke is no laughing matter in FL these days. When I got home Tuesday morning it was 7:15 and the temperature was already 84 degrees! I'm so confused, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between normal heat and a power surge. Lord help when those hit and I'm not in an air conditioned room or car!

So anyway, the walk takes up my normal posting spot. I've confessed that I'm not excessively gifted with organizing things; I really don't do well with altering the few things I can control about my scheduling. Mess that up and you may find me sitting in the corner starring off into space, muttering quietly, trying to twirl the hair on my head that is entirely too short for twirling!

The young adults in our lives often question us about why we get up so early every morning. I MUST HAVE MY MORNING QUIET TIME OR I AM NOT A NICE PERSON!! (Do all caps indicate yelling in blog-speak? If so, that's what I meant to do. Smile.)

Frank and I both love to get up sometime between 5 and 6 A.M. While this may seem ridiculous to some and noble to others believe me - it's neither. It is simply - Necessary. I recently told a friend that I had to get a jump on the day before the day can jump on me! Smile.

I have a really hysterical story to share from my birthday but I'll have to save that for tomorrow. (You know, the whole "off-schedule" problem which leaves me no real time today.) I have sought my brain for the important message to be found in today's post. There probably isn't one unless it's this. Find a time to find yourself each day. That time makes life more lovely!

P.S. Our precious Amanda called at 6:00 this morning and said, "Grandma Ora has finished her race." What a beautiful way to put it. Oddly enough, I had been lying awake praying for them at just the time Amanda watched her pass into Glory. Ah, the gift in being part of the Body of Christ.

Our love and prayers are with that family in AZ. You can read more about them at Amanda's blog FRAGMENTS. (

Monday, July 26, 2010

Birthday Blessings

This will undoubtedly be my fastest post of all time. (There were actually three other sentences here but I typed them so quickly that they literally flew off the page. Yeah, not really.)

In just a few moments I will be headed home for my "Birthday Dinner" and I am definitely looking forward to it. No cooking; no cleaning; just showing up and exhibiting genuine gratitude. I can do that! Besides, getting older is no big deal at this point. Yesterday marked my 52nd year on this earth.

Silly side note which demonstrates my poor math skills. The year I turned 24, Frank thought it would be funny to convince me - mathematically - that I had turned 25! He seemed so certain; sincere even. And as the trusting young bride, I bought it. Uh Huh!

Spent that entire year telling people that I was 25. It wasn't until the next July that he corrected his little joke. I see you thought it was funny too! Now you understand why I had math tutors for the girls while we were home-schooling.

Anyway, my family has actually managed to turn this into a three-day event. Frank and I enjoyed some "birthday-ish" time on Friday. The girls had created "encouragement notes" that they posted randomly throughout the house and tucked in special hiding places where I would find them later. (My favorite was when I lifted the cover off my tea kettle; which they knew I would surely do on Sunday morning. Attached to the kettle was a brightly colored note - "You're still a Hot Tea!" Get it? Hottee?! How cute are they?!!)

There were three red roses and a card on my desk from Frank. The church showered me with cards placed in a lovely crystal basket in the foyer; along with a fabulous spring bouquet. My facebook account was filled with greetings. Several messages were from missionary friends and two of those were in the language of their field. Such Fun!

The only bad spot was that I misplaced my phone for the day and couldn't find it anywhere. We searched high then low then high again; still nothing. Finally, around 7:30 when the evening breezes were blowing and the mosquitoes had not yet arrived, I went out to sit on my swing for a few minutes. There was my little phone, sitting all alone; right where I had left it on Saturday night.

So if you tried to call me, I did not look at the caller I.D. and choose to ignore your call as you suspected. No indeed. Who in their right mind would miss out on a birthday call?! "Not I," said the little old birthday girl. I simply couldn't find my phone to answer your call. But if you left a message, I will have the joy of replaying it several times. Smile.

And now I must be on my way. I already have explicit instructions to NOT look into the refrigerator when I arrive home. As a matter of fact, I was later told to not even look into the KITCHEN! No problem at all. I shall turn into the driveway; go straight to my bedroom; change clothes and enjoy a few chapters of the book I'm currently reading.

What a plan!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Unexpected

When you love people and you genuinely love being able to serve them, there is never a moment when you step completely away from that. Yesterday was a case in point.

Frank and I were home, taking some time to relax. And the day was moving at a pretty slow pace. Just as I was getting ready to put together a leisurely lunch, the phone rang and it was Amanda (our young adults pastor and "adopted" daughter).

She had gotten the call from her mom that she had been dreading. Her grandmother, who has been battling cancer, was unresponsive; the family had already booked a flight to Phoenix for Amanda and we had one hour to help her get ready to go.

Amanda's relationship with her grandmother has been similar to that shared by Elijah and Elisha from the Old Testament. Grandma Ora has been somewhat of a miracle worker in their home town of Maran, AZ. In fact, if you were to Google her name, you would discover that she is identified as: former mayor, historian, and philanthropist. And it is quite apparent that the "mantle" of greatness will fall on Amanda; these two have shared a special bond throughout Amanda's life.

We all jumped into action trying to help Amanda make her flight.

She was swinging by the house to pick me up (there was never any question as to who would drive her to the airport) so I grabbed a quick shower and threw on jeans and a t-shirt. Frank took over preparations for our dinner with the Schreck Family. Kristin left work to meet us at her apartment and help pack. Multiple scenarios had to be thought through, clothes chosen, thrown in a suitcase. Oh, make sure that thing doesn't go over the allowable weight!

A quick stop at the church office to gather Bible, journal, and one book; print the ticket.

Sorrow pressed the edges of our hearts and threatened at every moment to come rushing out with a flood of emotion. But we had to push back because giving in at that point would have been disastrous; we would never have made the flight in time.

Adrenaline was still pumping as Amanda and I jumped into the car, slammed the doors and started checking off the necessary items. Our voices were low and very controlled as we rehearsed: "Driver's license; e-ticket; wallet; Bible; suitcase; purse. Let's go!" Her beautiful green eyes were wide, searching for reassurance that everything would somehow be okay.

Of course, tropical depression Bonnie had made landfall in Miami a few hours earlier. So the outer rain bands were just reaching us as we hit I-4 for the drive to Orlando. High winds, pouring rain, traffic clogged by fender-benders. Sigh. Nothing to do but just press on as cautiously (and quickly) as possible.

We made it safely to the airport in time and tipped the sky-cap for helping get the suitcase checked. (Fortunately for us, the scale at curbside wasn't functioning properly. The lady grunted as she lifted Amanda's suitcase to guess at the weight. I had explained the situation. "Aww, it's close" she said. And hefted the bag onto the belt.)

We only had time for a quick, fervent prayer and a tight hug full of unspoken thoughts. Tears were beginning to spill over as she took a deep breath and headed for the terminal. I waited until she got inside; then eased into the traffic and gave way to my own rush of tears. (Not the safest thing but surely you knew they were coming.)

I drove home in relative quiet. There was a CD playing hymns revised for those under thirty. I drank deeply from the truth of the lyrics - even though the arrangements weren't really conducive for a "sing-a-long". Smile.

And I talked to Jesus. Honestly. Respectfully. Pausing to listen for what He would say in return. His message? "I love you unconditionally and my grace is sufficient. Always. And in all ways."

I realized that I was also reliving the mad dash I made to north FL when I received a similar call about my own mom suddenly dropping into an unresponsive state. So much emotion.

Times like this seem to dig deep trenches in our hearts. But I believe those trenches eventually serve as conduits allowing His mercy and grace to rush like a mighty river into the lives of people around us. Those who are parched, afraid, lonely, hopeless.

It's true - God never wastes anything! Even difficulty.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Much to Appreciate

I'm not quite sure what direction to take with today's post. There are so many things going on and most of them I fear you would find boring. (Besides, how do I top the post of "Great Expectations"?!!!!! Smile.)

But I do have a few friends that keep me accountable if I get slack in my commitment to write- so here I am!

Today brings the blessing of a true day off for us and by nine o' clock we had enjoyed the sunrise; finished devotions; walked the lake; eaten breakfast and prepared a "to do" list. Now, comes the slow-down part. Frank, just back from the chiropractor, is reading; I'm writing; Gracie and Bella are resting and I fear the rest of the "to do" list will suffer. Sometimes ya just gotta breathe!

Tonight we will enjoy another meal with John's family who are down from Poughkeepsie, NY for vacation. His mom, Linda, and I are mirror images of one another in so many ways. We are both credentialed ministers, we're energized by people, enjoy working for a church, love our families, etc. She's a tall, lovely blond (please understand that I'm a tall, lovely blond on the inside). And when she says my name, you KNOW she didn't grow up around these parts. Smile.

She and I have decided that some day we will "tag team preach" and people won't know what hit them. The sermon topic won't really matter; between the drawl and the twang there will be great entertainment! A little something for everyone.

Actually, their family has been an answer to a prayer we started praying over our girls when they were very young. We became acutely aware of the truth in the old saying, "You not only marry the person. You marry their family as well!" So as Frank and I prayed for the girls' spouses, we also prayed that their spouses' families would hold similar beliefs to ours and that we would enjoy being around one another.

The Schrecks have been an answer to that prayer! John really did grow up being drug to church in spite of the snow, wind and rain. He and his three brothers have known what it is to entertain themselves while their parents chat with just one more person after service. They know all the best church hiding spots. They know what it is to help set-up and tear-down for a service happening in the gym; and they grew up knowing how to make that fun.

Consequently, when John became "Pastor John" for our youth group, he already knew how to work hard without complaining. How to be punctual, responsible, reliable; a spiritual leader and self-starter. (No, pastor friends of mine, he is not looking for a new position! Are you kidding?) He was reared just like our girls were; except for the make-up and hair bows and high heels, of course. Smile.

Linda and I spend a lot of time being thankful when we get together. In fact, as wedding plans were moving forward in 2007 we happened to be discussing what music we (the moms) would like hear as we entered the sanctuary. We both requested the song by Wayne Watson, Somewhere in the World Out There. (If I were a more experienced blogger I would include a link to those words right here. Sorry, you'll have to google them for yourself; but they are worth the effort. Smile.)

It was such fun to discover that the song had been significant to both of us when our children were little (even though we didn't know each other at the time). It talks about praying for the spouse they will one day need. "I don't even know your name. But I'm praying for you just the same. Hold on to Jesus, Baby; wherever you are!" Yes, Linda and I couldn't help but cry as we were escorted down the aisle for Joy and John's wedding celebration. We were women living out the joy of answered prayers!


And now, here we are some three years later - still thankful. We shall undoubtedly be the most grateful grandmothers anyone ever saw!! Smile.

Hope your day is especially blessed!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Great Expectations


To all the dear readers of this blog, all those who are related, who are unrelated, to friends, acquaintances, church members, former church members, individual I once smiled at on the subway in Baltimore - let it be known:


I have waited so very long to get to type those words that now I feel compelled to type them again. So I will:


My cup runneth over; my joy knows no bounds; I am delirious with delight! Do you see the light radiating from my beaming smile all the way down here in central FL?

Joy and John Schreck (our middle daughter and most amazing son-in-law; actually he's our only son-in-law and that's beside the point) will be welcoming their first child into the world on (or around) February 8, 2011. Frank and I are absolutely beside ourselves!

The happy couple have known since Memorial Day but waited until we celebrated Father's Day to tell us. Everything is a production in our family; each event merits a memory being made. So Joy and John were very clever. They set it up for their Father's Day card be saved until last. Frank read it aloud just as he had the others and thanked them.

John then said, "Uh, Dad. You need to read it again - carefully."

Frank gave a puzzled look but dutifully began to reread the card. "Mumble, mumble, great dad, mumble, mumble. Nothing unusual here......Love, John, Joy and Baby." "And BABY?!!"
His head shot up, eyes searching for Joy's which were now brimming with tears. "For real? A BABY??!!!" The table erupted with screams of delight, shouts of congratulations, tears, hugs, laughter.

It was quite awhile before we all settled down enough to remember that Frank hadn't opened any gifts yet. The greatest gift had already been given: Frank was finally a POPPA! (Just in case you're wondering, I hope to be called NANA. But I'm sure I'll answer to whatever the baby wants to call me. Smile.)

The only problem with all this great news was that it had to be kept quiet until the doctor gave the clearance to tell. I don't mind telling you that this has been one of the toughest assignments we've ever been given. But we made it! (Only one person guessed and Joy and John were planning to tell her early anyway.)

Now, I know that all this "carrying on" may make it sound like we think we are the first people to ever become grandparents. Not at all. We've listened with truly glad hearts as many of our friends have told about the most brilliant children on the planet - their grandchildren - for years. And we've gladly celebrated each one.

No, this joy is made sweeter because of the sorrow we experienced right after Mom passed away Dec., 2008. At the end of that same month, Joy and John told us they were expecting a baby. We were so happy and it seemed a special gift after so much sadness. They shared the news with our church family and everyone was thrilled.

But just a week later, Joy began to have complications and before we had time to think, she was rushed into emergency surgery. It was an ectopic pregnancy and her fallopian tube had ruptured. We will have to wait until heaven to meet that precious little one. There was a long recovery and many tears that winter.

So yes, we've behaved a little more exuberantly than we might would have otherwise. God has graciously smiled on the John A. Schreck family and has blessed us with yet another life to be celebrated; and believe me, we will! I have a sonogram picture on the refrigerator and you can already tell that this child is both brilliant and beautiful! Smile.

I had a real shock about the world of instant news yesterday when I was given the green light to post my new "status" on facebook. Within three minutes of posting our news, I had nine responses of congratulations. Now that's fast!

Yes, I've joined the club. The club of silly-acting, money-spending, rule-bending, sugar-sneaking, brilliance-bragging, picture-showing: GRANDPARENTS!! How sweet it is!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sunday Nap

I would like to submit that there is nothing quite so delectable, delightful nor so delicious as the famed - Sunday Afternoon Nap!! There is a proper sequence that should be carefully followed in order to create the maximum Sunday Afternoon Nap experience. The nap is preceded by the Sunday Morning Services(s) which are immediately followed by Sunday Lunch in order to create the optimum segue.

Yes, it's true that you can nap on other days of the week but that just isn't as satisfying for some reason. Mostly because if you nap on another day, it's because you're sick (no fun) or because you're guilty of stealing time from some project that you should be doing (no joy). Even a Saturday Nap cannot quite compare to the Sunday Afternoon Nap.

As I ponder this truth, I am made to wonder if the major glory of this experience is somehow tied to the fact that historically it was on Sunday afternoons that women usually were able to finally rid themselves of the horrid "industrial strength pantyhose" which had been holding them together for the duration of Sunday School, Sunday service(s), lunch, leisurely chatting, farewell-baby-kissing, etc. (Run-on sentence, I know. But if you've ever experienced the blessed moment of extrication from industrial strength pantyhose then you KNOW that a run-on sentence is merited. Smile.)

Anyway, I think that perhaps the Sunday Afternoon Nap may even qualify for "Sin Status" in some circles where anything pleasurable is frowned upon. Because it does indeed bring such incredible pleasure to the participants.

As for me, I begin to anticipate my nap well before dessert or coffee is served at lunch. (That's due to the fact that right now I'm trying my best to avoid empty calories.) Others at my table ooooo and ahhhhh over the delicacies on their saucers. I begin allowing my mind to wander to the great moment when I'll grab the designated "nap quilt", pull my "sleeping pillow" from behind the decorative pillows, snuggle down under the "nap quilt" and take that deeply satisfying sigh that says - "Come, oh delightful hour of respite!"

Yeah, I don't know if this post is due to the fact that I've been reading a lot from the King James Version of the Bible or if it's because I just really needed a nap today. Either way, I'm sticking by my belief that the Sunday Afternoon Nap is a blessing from Heaven that should be enjoyed by all God's children.

And that concludes my rambling for today! (Julia Child would sign off with "Bon Apetite!" Is there a comparable phrase for "Happy Napping!" ? I'm not sure about that one.)

Friday, July 16, 2010


I'm breaking one of my personal rules as I write this morning.

Because I enjoy writing this blog so much and because I typically write first thing in the morning, I established a rule for myself. "No writing until after devotions time." And this works pretty well with one exception; my personal journal time has been seriously curtailed. And today.........I need to journal.

As many of you know, my precious mom moved to Heaven nineteen months ago. (I was pondering last night. I guess it's like with children, you mark the months until two years then it becomes "Two years. Two and a half years. Three years." Sigh. Nothing really seems quite right about marking the passing of a loved one.)

Bottom line, my mom is no longer the one to answer the phone when I call; nor will she ever be again. We had a little ritual every Saturday: I dial their number. Ring. Ring. Mom picks up the phone and short of breath says, "Maranatha! Burke's Residence." "Hi Mama. It's me. How are you?" "Oh, hey Baby. I'm blessed, thank you." (Spoken with the thickest of southern accents.) And we'd go on from there; something so comforting about rituals, isn't there?

At the funeral, countless people commented about the fact that whenever they asked Mom how she was doing, her unfailing response was, "I'm Blessed, thank you! How are you?" Answer the question; turn the spotlight. That was Mom's mode of operation.

I had mentioned a few weeks back that my dad had been talking a lot about a particular friend who had actually become a "Special Lady" in his life. S.L. (as we call her) is still around. And last week while Vonnie (my sister, who lives in NC) and her family were visiting dad, they were taken to meet S.L. Hmmmmm.

Change is seldom easy but it is inevitable. And it appears that more change is just around the corner for my extended family.

S.L. is actually a very nice lady and if I met her at a conference or somewhere generic, I'm sure we would hit it off quickly. But my dad is introducing her to us for a very specific reason; nothing generic about this. And I think I'd rather stick my head in the sand right now.

He wants her to answer the phone on Saturdays; meet us on the porch when we come home for holidays; call the family to the dining room when dinner is ready; mail the birthday cards.

Can anyone besides the real mama do those things? Yeah.........I don't know.

Last time I wrote about this, several of you who have already navigated these snake-y waters left comments of wisdom and encouragement. I genuinely appreciated you taking time to do that. There is comfort in knowing that others have made the adjustment successfully. And I'm sure we will too; there are just more tears involved than I originally supposed.

Yep, it's definitely a journaling sort of day. But one thing is for certain - I'm blessed. Hope your day is blessed too!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Well, I guess this is the week for learning and lessons and illustrations..........

A few weeks ago I transferred my desert rose to a larger pot because it was looking so healthy and growing so beautifully. I just knew that the larger pot would give those stretching roots additional room and it would surely take over the patio in a matter of weeks.

When I went to water it a few days later, every blooming, growing part of the plant had fallen off! I attributed it to the shock of being re-potted and waited. Days later, three little frail leaves (of the sickly sort) finally began to push out of the barren stem. There have been no more of the strong pink flowers that were covering the plant when I transferred it.

This week-end, as I ran through Home Depot, I passed a fabulous desert rose in their patio area. My tennis shoes screeched to a halt allowing me a moment to ponder just why this one was so incredibly healthy while the recipient of all my careful T.L.C. was so pitiful looking. The Home Depot rose was still crammed in the original pot which it had obviously outgrown; roots poking out and appearing almost disfigured with so little soil to cover them.

Then it hit me - these plants do better when root-bound!

What I thought was helping my exquisite rose was actually hindering its growth. My intention was to make growth easier; the pot was roomier and full of additional nutrients. Unfortunately, the rose was getting too much stimulation and was unable to produce anything beautiful because its growth was diverted to the roots.

How can it be that crowding and "discomfort" are actually the best for a plant? (See the illustration? Smile.) So often I want my life to be roomy and comfortable. But God sees that "best" for me right now involves some serious discomfort; crowding; even what may appear to me as - disfiguring.

He knows that in this condition, the greatest beauty will burst forth!

So, if you find yourself pinched, crushed, seriously uncomfortable - don't be too quick to ask for a relocation assignment. Perhaps this is a place that will actually cause the most amazing beauty to spring forth from your life!

Ah, the lessons of God.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Immigration Education

My job as pastor gives me opportunities (on a regular basis) to be in places; meet people; share experiences I never would if I had any other position. Let's just say, there is never a dull moment! Smile.

Yesterday was a prime example of the daily tutorial available to me. One of the dear ladies who has been in our church for four years now has recently been thrown into a life-altering situation that would cause most of us to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to come out until everything was better.

Things won't be getting better in her situation any time soon. And so she has been forced to square her thin shoulders, lift her tiny chin and plunge ahead doing the best she can for herself and her daughter as she goes along. (Can you tell that her walk is a challenge to greatness in my life right now?)

When she called last week and asked if I could drive her to an appointment at the immigration office Monday morning, I was happy to help. We've been praying, of course, but some days we just need to put legs on our prayers.

There was confusion about our arranged meeting spot and so instead of leaving at 7:30 as we had planned, it was almost 8:15 when we left Winter Haven and we needed to be in Orlando at 9:00. (Cue the theme from the Lone Ranger and Tonto!) I wasn't breaking the law during the entire drive; but my angels sure were hanging on for dear life. Smile.

When we arrived at the immigration building, I dropped off my friend at the main door. And she rushed inside clutching her bright orange folder with all the necessary documentation. I was shocked to discover that I would need to walk through a metal detector, have my purse searched and produce proper I.D. before I would be allowed to enter as well. Intimidating stuff for a Monday morning.

After being assigned a number, we took our seats in the pristine waiting area that could have contained two basketball courts. I was immediately immersed in a sea of multi-culturalism. People sat in groups of two or three talking in hushed tones. The clothing, the facial features, the dialects - it was a place RIPE for people-watching. But back to the story........

My friend quietly explained that the officer at Bay 4 had been extremely kind to her on a recent visit and was the one who had given her instructions about all the documentation she would need for this return appointment. But she had also dealt with the officer in Bay 2; he had been extremely rude to her once, we did NOT want to deal with him.

We nervously watched the screen as numbers were called and officers were randomly assigned to deal with each case. After a very long time, my friend's number was finally called: "B45 - Bay 2"! Her shoulders sagged a bit as we rose to walk over. Officer Bay Two lived up to his reputation. He was abrupt, curt, impatient and even a bit insulting.

I didn't want to over step my bounds, but I also know how much effort this woman is putting into every step she takes these days. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and said, "Yes, all of this makes perfect sense when you look at it day after day. But for those of us unfamiliar with all these documents, it's a little bit daunting - don't you think?!" Then I simply smiled and glared at him.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the "Southern Slap-down," that's what it sounds like. Southern women may sound slow because of the drawl; but make no mistake we can be pretty quick when it's needed.

Apparently Officer Bay Two has dealt with Southern Slap-down Women before because he backed off after that. And although we didn't get everything we wanted, he did finally provide clarity that my friend would need for later.

On the way home, she turned in her seat to look at me as I drove. Her sweet voice and thick accent combined to create rich, lyrical tones as she mused, "Don't you think it's incredible that the Lord made us friends? Just think, Pastor Sheri, from the beginning of time He saw me in Sri Lanka and you in the United States and He said, 'They will be friends.' I think that is amazing!" She was beaming and I immediately had tears in my eyes.

Yes, amazing is the word!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Walk

Isn't it amazing how easily you can become distracted from the project you first begin? (No, I don't think I suffer from attention deficit disorder; I'm just one of those people who is easily distracted.) I've been trying to write this post for two days now but other things keep jumping to the front of the line.

I am happy to report that I am making an attempt to get back into the semblance of an exercise routine. Mostly I'm walking which, in this heat, is a real effort. Thus, the funny story from yesterday.

Frank and I woke early as usual then sat on the back porch, enjoying a cup of coffee and discussing plans for our day off. They probably sounded similar to the plans for your day off: clean the house, mow the yard, minor repairs, wash the dogs and the car, enjoy a meal together, watch a movie until you fall asleep on the couch! Oh the joys of adulthood!

I guess I had been talking about my need to exercise a little more than I thought because although Frank had almost an acre to mow and trim, he suggested that we go walk around Lake Hollingsworth first. (What a good man he is!) This beautiful body of water in Lakeland is completely encircled with a paved walking trail three miles around. Needless to say, it is an exercise Mecca this time of year because of the lake breezes and abundant shade trees.

Although this was our first trek around in several weeks, and although the temperature was already in the mid-90's, we made it in just under an hour. High-fives were definitely in order!! We were congratulating ourselves and really looking forward to the water we had waiting in the car.

For some reason the key Frank had carried didn't seem to work in his door so he came around to my door. Still no luck. The back hatch has no lock. We began to be concerned. He tried his door again, then suddenly realized the full extent of our problem.

When the mechanic replaced our ignition switch prior to vacation, new keys were necessary. Unfortunately, the new keys do NOT work in the old locks of the doors. Consequently, we were at the lake, locked out of our car, with phones INSIDE the car, with all our family at their jobs, looking like we had just walked three miles in FL humidity and smelling like it too!! Not our finest moment!

I accosted the only other person brave enough to be in that hot parking lot mid-day and asked if I could use her phone. She graciously agreed and I dialed Kristin's number (one of only three phone numbers I now have memorized - inexcusable) hoping that she would answer a number she didn't recognize.

She answered cautiously and I quickly laid out the situation and our suggestions for help. Twenty minutes later, one of our adopted daughters (who works in Lakeland) came wheeling into the parking lot to rescue us. Then the marathon really got started.

We rushed her back to work because she was on her lunch hour. Headed back to Winter Haven to get my set of keys. Stopped and put gas in her car. Dashed back to Lake Hollingsworth to pick up our car. Off to her office to return her car and keys.

By this time we were hungry so we whipped into our favorite little Greek gyro spot for lunch. Then we sat by Lake Parker sharing a sandwich and fries, probably consuming more calories than the walk had burned, and laughing at our "leisurely morning" fiasco.

Oh well, at least we were together and laughing. Can't beat that, any day!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's the Truth

Re-entry to the real world is seldom languid, is it? Smile.

The saving grace for us (returning from vacation) was that our offices were closed on Monday because of the 4th of July. However, our youth did begin a missions trip this week; working daily in our community and sleeping at the church. So of course, we wanted to come up and visit them on Day 1. And there were a few errands that had to be run.......... You know how it is.


You know that scripture that says, "Be sure your sins will find you out."? (I've quoted this in the original, intensified, King James Version for you because that's how Mom made us memorize this mischief-deterring-scripture.)

Well, it seems that all the vacation relaxing and resting and lolling I did combined with all the sweets-tasting and treat snitching to bring me to a startling moment of truth this morning on Ye Olde Bathroom Scale!!!!

Yes, I now weigh exactly what I did when I was in my twenties.........going into the labor room to deliver a baby!!

You will be proud to know that I quickly harnessed the horse-dog, Bella; added the Elvis-dog, Gracie and headed out for a brisk walk hoping that one morning of exercise would somehow undo all the indulging I had been doing over the past nine days. Just as you suspected, it did not work!

But I do plan on trying again tomorrow morning because now I'm pretty much at the edge of all my largest size clothes. And some people are beginning to notice that I seem to be wearing the same pair of black slacks every other day while cleverly alternating with the black elastic waist skirt. Sigh.

Frank just flew in with our usual Wednesday evening dinner of Chinese. (Yes, I AM aware that Chinese does not usually qualify as diet food. THANK YOU!! But I really am hungry and I don't encourage you to get between me and dinner under any circumstances.)

Let us all lift our voices and join Annie in singing, "TOMORROW! TOMORROW! I LOVE YA, TOMORROW!.........."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dates of Significance

What a wonderful Fourth of July Celebration!

We were about as patriotic as you could get at church yesterday morning. If you didn't understand "Love of God and Country" after that service, you just wouldn't get it - ever! We opened with a presentation of the colors by our Polk County Sheriff's Department. The team was crisp, precise, excellent in every way. The congregation sang, "The Star-Spangled Banner" with gusto that reverberated from back to front and back again.

We had special music and our guest speaker was Jack Ernest, a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. His message was incredibly powerful. And he drew a perfect parallel between military personnel who are trained to offer their lives as the ultimate price for freedom and Christ who also gave His life so that we could live in freedom - freedom from sin.

As I watched a few moments of the National Celebration on television Saturday night, I was struck with an interesting thought. It seems that our holidays here in the U.S.A. have become only that - holidays. We seem to have forgotten that they are days intended to mark significant events: the birthday of our nation, Resurrection Day, the birth of Christ, etc. Instead, our holidays now are marked by sales events, gift-giving, parties, and lots of unrealistic expectations.
Of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves for this anomaly. How is the next generation to know these things if we don't make the telling part of our celebrating? That's why we kept our children in service yesterday. Jack spoke wearing full dress uniform; his Marine presence kept everyone sitting still! Smile.

And Frank always uses the month of July to preach a series of messages on God and Country. Our prayers are the real hope for our nation and contrary to what some may think, prayer really does matter! So, we will pray for our president, our congress, our supreme court justices and any other government official the Lord happens to bring to mind. To quote my mom, "They need the prayer and I need the practice!" Smile.

Well, that's my soap box moment for today. Happy Birthday, America! Hope your week is wonderful!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Home Again

Whenever we pull into our driveway after a long trip, someone inevitably will quote, "Home again. Home again, jiggety jig!" (You know from the ancient childhood song, "To market. To market to buy a fat hog. Home again. Home again, jiggety jog. To market. To market to buy a fat piiiiggg. - orchestra swells at this point - Home again. Home again, jiggety jig!" Definitely too much time relaxing and resting. Smile.)

Our nine hour trip became an eleven hour trip because of traffic and rain and accidents - not ours thankfully. Although my "Jedi-driver husband" did help us narrowly avoid being hit by a car that was rear-ended right beside us. Had I been driving, I'm afraid that we would have spent several hours sitting in the rain beside I-95 just north of Jacksonville.

I'm a cautious, plodder-type driver and do not have the quick reflex response technique he was able to employ yesterday; swerving just far enough into the right lane to avoid the skidding SUV on our left while also avoiding the compact car on our right. (The big angels helped too, I'm sure!)

Anyway, pulling into our own little drive yesterday was fulfilling. Seeing the front yard that to us is the most lovely anywhere (thanks Mike for mowing while we were away); smiling at the "welcome home" sign and streamers the girls had on the front door; realizing that our plants, flowers, trees did not die while under the girls' care...... Dorothy was right, there's no place like home!

I even had that sensation we seldom have about our own homes. When I walked into the living room after being away these nine days, I was immediately reminded why we decorated and painted the way we did. Because, I like it! Smile. The fact that the girls had cleaned every little corner was a big bonus. (Of course, that meant we had to put away every single item from vacation as we unloaded the car. Not my favorite part. But a good thing, just the same.)

Even my closet evoked a sigh of contentment because I had taken time to reorganize it just before we left. Ahhhhhh! And Bella and Gracie? Let's just say that if dogs could smile, their grins would truly have been from ear to floppy ear. Bella just kept turning circles around Frank and Gracie isn't content to sit near me, she must be against me now. I should probably be annoyed but her little "Elvis Smile" is too disarming for that.

Kristin and Meagan made it home just before we climbed into our own bed for the night and their hugs were wonderful! We'll garner hugs from everyone else either today or tomorrow at church. Frank was able to hold the remote for his very own television (which is, of course, the modern equivalent of a scepter for most men.)

When I woke this morning, my first thought was of an email I had received just before leaving and I had a small moment of panic wondering if I had indeed forwarded it to the appropriate party. Guess I'm back! Smile.

Today will be spent in preparation for hosting a Fourth of July celebration at our home tomorrow after the HUGE celebration at church. (We're nothing if not patriotic! Smile.)

Frank is making sure that crisp, well-maintained flags are flying all around us. The red, white and blue plates, cups and napkins are purchased. The chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs will be properly prepared. Lawn games, lawn chairs and well......the lawn will all be in place before nightfall.

It's a good thing to be away - see new places, hug old friends, enjoy different experiences, gain refreshed perspective. But it is also good, VERY good to come home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Last

(My goodness what an educational time in blogging this is for me. I'm back at Jumpin' Java in order to write to you dear readers. I got it all ready, hit post, it didn't work, realized I wasn't connected any longer, connected, hit post and hadn't hit save again. AAAGGGGHHHH! Please know that you are loved. smile.)

Today is the last day of our vacation. And because I looked forward to this time so intensely for so very long, it would be easy to become a bit melancholy about it being the last. Actually, there are several "lasts" today.

We took our last leisurely, sunrise stroll on the beach this morning. We enjoy searching for sand dollars and other unique shells. We will enjoy our last meal of fresh seafood at Ella's (late lunch now since I have to retype this. Smile.) Oh and there were a couple of great "lasts" from yesterday that I wanted to share with you.

Last night, Frank and I indulged ourselves with a lovely date night which included dinner at "The Parson's Table" in Little River. (Great name for a preacher's date spot, don't you think?) Not only is this restaurant known for it's amazing food, it also provides ambiance and history all in one fell swoop.

The main dining area is actually the original building of the local Methodist church which was founded in the late 1800's. There are several spectacular stained glass windows adorning the restaurant with beauty from floor to ceiling. Several chandeliers grace the rooms which were once hanging in various churches from the area and the heavy wooden doors at the front are over 150 years old.

The Parson's Table has ingeniously put to use things that some thought had come to their last point of service. Great idea!

The drive back to our place took us past the last swing bridge on the east coast that is still in operation. And because we are on vacation and not in a rush, we took time to drive over the tired, worn wooden bridge which will soon be replaced by the mammoth structure of steal and concrete rising in the darkness beside it.

We waited patiently for the bridge operator to begin the "Nine o'clock Show". The bridge connects the mainland to the island called Sunset Beach and spans the intra-coastal waterway. It opens every hour on the hour to accommodate boating traffic. Last night's show only took about eight minutes as there was only one boat waiting. That was most likely our last opportunity to enjoy the slow process as next time we come the old bridge will be gone and everyone will be singing the praises of the new, improved bridge. Sigh.

Yep, I could get a little sad. But I must also remember that today is a day of beginnings too. Today is the beginning of July - a favorite with me as it is my birthday month. And today marks the beginning of our time back in our favorite spot on earth. It's true that we don't start driving until tomorrow but my dear husband is already there in his mind. Thinking about the week-end celebration, planning the remainder of the year, refreshed and rarin' to go! Smile.

This isn't unusual. It's actually an occupational hazard when you love what you do and the people you serve.

I thought I'd leave you with some of the delightful names of the beach houses we've been seeing. "Time Aweigh", "Sea Duction", "Isle Sea You", "Conch Out", and a personal favorite - "Summer Home; Summer Not". Aren't those great?! Frank and I decided that should we ever have a beach house it would have to be named - "Hawley Day Inn". LOL!!!