Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Truth Revealed

Yesterday after work was the time to enjoy one of my birthday gift certificates that I had been holding on to. A massage! Oh, glorious delight! One of the families in our church has a favorite massage therapist and decided to bless me with a visit to her.

I spent the day in anticipation. I have been privileged to enjoy a massage two or three other times and they have always been a great treat. Soft music playing; a whisper fan blowing; lights low; warm fragrant oils; gentle strokes easing away tension and relaxing muscles.

But yesterday was a massage of a different sort.

From the moment I first met "Elba" I knew I was in trouble. The tiny lady looked up at me and said in a stern voice, "Okay, what's your problem?!"

"Umm, I don't really have a problem, as such. I'm just here for the massage."

But she kept looking at me with penetrating eyes. So I said, "Oh, well ummm. My shoulder hurts a bit."

Elba gave a sniff. "Uh Huh. You clench too much! Come in here."

And so began my hour long journey with a lady who focused more on the "therapist" part of her license than on the "massage" part! Smile.

Now please understand. I'm no wimp! I'm fully aware that some discomfort must be tolerated in order to help release muscles and the toxins that build up. But-oh-my-lord-have-mercy! Elba was on a search and destroy mission. Search out the evil, tense muscles and destroy what has them locked up.

At one point, I finally held up one finger to indicate that I was hurting. She ignored me. So I gave a little groan. She pressed harder. That's when I said, "Umm, that's uncomfortable!" She started crooning, "I know. I know. I'm so sorry." And promptly proceeded to press harder!!

Finally, blessed release came; and I sighed deeply knowing the worst was over. Elba made one deft move to my other side and announced, "This will hurt more! Deep breath." (You can not make up stuff this funny!)

Add to all this the flood of thoughts that was running in my head.

Elba started our "adventure" with a comment about my shoulders being ridiculously tight. In just a few short moments she was able to locate the key points of tension. Then she made a revealing observation, "You worry too much. You're carrying everybody on your shoulders."

WOW!! My heart was immediately reminded of the scripture, "Be sure your sins will find you out..."

You see, Elba had been told that I am a pastor. There were indications in her office that she is influenced more by eastern religions than by Christianity. What a perfect opportunity to tell someone about the God I serve. And when I first stepped into her office, I looked like a woman full of confidence and faith.

But my shoulders told Elba a different story. My shoulders were shouting to her, "This woman says she trusts God. But really, she worries too much!" Sigh.

The truth about me was exposed and I had no where to hide. Literally!

Elba finished the massage and I got ready to leave. But on the drive home I did some honest praying. I followed Elba's example and searched out the offending worries then began applying ample pressure from the Word to break them up. I will have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help me keep those worries from re-establishing themselves in my life.

And should I visit Elba at some point in the future, I hope that my shoulders will give a different "witness" about my ability to "cast all my cares on Him".

Well, there you have it; my honest confession. Pray for me, won't you?! Smile.

(Amanda changed my comment format yesterday to make it easier for you dear readers to leave your own observations. Please let us know if it works. Thanks!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I love words!

I just simply enjoy phrases and sentences and individual words that demand I look them up in the dictionary. If it hadn't been for the horror of trying to diagram sentences in Mr. Calbert's English class, I would have majored in English instead of history.

Oddly enough, when I applied for a teaching position, the school needed an English teacher. I asked if they had answer keys; they said yes; and I said, "I can teach English!" (That position was here in central FL and I periodically run into some of my former students. Even though they are adults with families of their own, I just take it as a good sign that my face is still recognizable after all these years. Smile.)

Back to "words"......

This morning I read a fabulous phrase that literally brought a smile to my face. So I thought I'd share it with you, dear readers:

"And these are but the outer fringes of his works,
How faint the whisper we hear of him!"

Isn't that just delicious?! You have to read it slowly a couple of times; let it roll around; savor the implications.

Sitting on my back porch, drinking coffee, watching the mist roll over our yard, experiencing a cool morning breeze, knowing the day is just full of potential. I look at all the blessings and realize that they are only the "outer fringe" of possibility. As a matter of fact, what I'm experiencing right now is only a "faint whisper" of God's ultimate goodness.

(You may ask,"Did you take a strong pain pill or something, Sheri?" Smile.)

No, I'm reading a book by C.S. Lewis that is really challenging me to think outside the conventional box. Life is full of trouble and disappointment and sorrow and genuine struggle! I'm well acquainted with the truth of this and could give you a personal laundry list that might rival Job's.

But I'm also aware that there are mundane moments of majesty that beg to be acknowledged.

Like when one of my daughters sees that I'm struggling and comes over to cuddle up with me for a moment. Like the touch of Frank's hand on my face. Like the genuine smile of a trusted friend. Like the "brush strokes" of a sunrise or sunset. Your list will be different from mine.

For every disappointment, I choose to believe that there is a balancing delight. And we control which will be our focus. Some days the difficulty is very loud and screams to receive my full attention. That's when I must become intentional and rehearse the truth I've found in the "faint whisper".

I choose to look up and beyond my little circle; realizing that the universe is so much bigger than the small box I try to fit it in.

Yeah, that's a lot to ponder on a Saturday morning! Smile.

But I really want to offer you encouragement this morning. "Even in sorrow the heart can find joy." Listen for the faint whisper of love. It's definitely there, we just have to choose to hear it. Hope your week-end is blessed!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spaghetti Sort of Day

Today is full of random thoughts which will also lead, most certainly, to random activities.

This would really concern me if I had never read the book: Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti. If you are married, someday hope to be married, or work around married people, you should read this book. It gives a humorous perspective (and who couldn't use some more humor in their lives) of the vast chasm separating the thinking patterns of men and women.

Apparently men think in "boxes" like a waffle. Go into the box, identify the difficulty, create a plan for conquering the difficulty, CONQUER, exit box, close door and never think of it again.
Quite tidy, don't you think?

Women, on the other hand, tend to think like a plate of spaghetti. Every noodle connects to every other noodle causing each and every issue of her existence to blend together making it impossible to ascertain where one issue leaves off and another begins. Whew! No wonder men prefer being men. Smile.

For the few men who brave reading this post allow me to demonstrate:
  • I found a comment on my last post from a reader all the way out in Nebraska! I love being connected to people from "far away"; so I read her blog (such fun); which reminded me that our friends from England will be arriving next week for a visit; I need to get the house ready; is there still touch-up paint in the garage?; Frank cleaned the garage last week. He is an amazing husband; I should make him a nice dinner; I don't think I have any more frozen dumplings, I'll have to get to the grocery store; the grocery store is near Lowe's and we wanted a few new plants, I should pick those up while I'm over that way.........
There you have it, an extremely brief peek into the feminine mind. A bit scarey, isn't it?! Smile.

Yes, I was able to go from Nebraska to Auburndale Lowe's in just under 2.7 seconds. It's actually rather amazing. Ask your favorite female friend sometime what she's thinking and how she got there. You will definitely be entertained.

So on my docket for today I find these possibilities:
  • blog
  • check on a friend who called earlier
  • follow-up on a Bible study
  • cleaning projects: refrigerator, oven, bathroom, laundry
  • grocery store
  • dinner
  • WALK
  • read
Random day; wonderful to have so many "spaghetti-ish" options! Smile.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lunch, Anyone?

(Do NOT read today's post if you tend to be a bit squeamish. This is not for the faint of heart.)

Okay, so you know how you've talked to people who say, "Yes, I had food poisoning once and I thought I was going to die." Then you look away and roll your eyes thinking, "Really? How could it possibly have been that bad."

Well, I'm here to tell you that food poisoning is indeed that bad! I mean, I didn't think I was dying but this was very close to child birth without pain meds. And I can truthfully report to you that my entire system is so devoid of anything that I'm looking forward to getting on the scales tomorrow. Smile.

Rewind to lunchtime yesterday. There were some delicious leftovers in the refrigerator at church and we had a very busy day. So in an effort to save time and money, Kristin ran by to join Amanda and me for the "feast". We made sandwiches, laughed and talked, then all went back to work. About two hours later my tummy started talking to me using very unpleasant verbiage.

Then suddenly the battle began in earnest and I was not winning. Let's just say that I've never been quite so thankful for a good cleaning company taking care of our bathrooms as I was yesterday. I sat on the floor in Frank's office half-bath trying to regain my composure. (He was working the polls near our home.) When Amanda came in and found me, she immediately started packing my things for me to go home.

As I attempted to protest, another wave hit me and my words were wasted on porcelain. She wanted to drive me home but she seemed fine and I'm "Wonder Woman in Polyester" right? So I grabbed the smallest garbage can she could find, placed it close to me on the console and headed for 2013 Misty Morning. Longest drive of my life!!

I took back roads to better facilitate pulling over periodically. And even while in terrible pain, tears running down my face, my warped sense of humor came in to play. "Why does moaning help at a time like this?" I thought. "There isn't even anyone to hear me." But moan I did!

I made it home - barely. Located my phone and my trash can; then headed straight for my own bathroom. Kristin called a few minutes later and I asked her to come home. She knew it had to be bad because the mama takes care of everyone else; the mama doesn't ask for help, right? I told her to go get her dad. I was well aware that the polls had not yet closed but my patriotism took a back seat to my pain. I didn't know if we were going to be making a trip to the hospital.

That's when things went from bad to worse. It hit Kristin too!

She made it to the polling station to get Frank then came home and fell out on her bathroom floor. I knew someone had to go get Amanda because it was just a matter of time for her as well. Meagan left work, went to Amanda's apartment, brought her to our house and provided her with a customized "container" of her own.

Frank was already on the phone with poison control. He and Meagan took over as doctor and nurse; running from room to room; offering sips of Sprite or Gatorade; exchanging trash bags; covering those chilling; uncovering those hot flashing. Well, you get the picture.

Once they got us in semi-comfortable positions, Meagan looked at Frank and said, "Doctor, I'm starving!" It was around 7:00 and they didn't have food poisoning! Smile.

I'm sure the retelling of this wild story will render uproarious laughter in years to come. But right now? Let's just say that although I still feel badly, I felt so much worse yesterday that right now actually feels pretty good by comparison. (How's that for a descriptive, run-on sentence?) Kristin and Amanda are some better this morning too.

Oh yeah, stay away from the left-overs in the refrigerator!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Order, Kind Of!

Order is a marvelous thing on so many levels.

I sponsored a jewelry party for Kristin and Meagan last night (they are relaunching their Premier Jewelry business.) That meant the house needed to be "company ready" which is slightly different from "straightened". And being the wonderful young adult women they are, they made sure everything was put back just as it was supposed to be after the party.

Consequently, when I came out to get coffee this morning my kitchen was spotless; the living room pristine; the bathrooms cleaned; the patio glowing. (Well, not really "glowing" but I ran out of adjectives. Smile.) As I sat reveling in the majestic morning artwork, I realized how soothing order actually is to our hearts.

  • Because the house was in order, I could take longer with my devotions and get my post completed before work.
  • A short "to do" list gave me the ability to think creatively while enjoying the sunrise. My mind wasn't cluttered with what must happen before I get out the door.
  • My conversation with Frank was more relaxed. There weren't any little "tasks" I really needed him to do and I wasn't distracted with trying to figure out how to ask him to help do those without really asking. (Whew! That's a lot of undue pressure for morning. I know, Amanda says I should follow my northern counterparts and just say "Frank, please take care of..........." But after thirty-one years of doing things the subtle southern way I don't see change coming easily. Smile.)
  • I was able to immediately find my purse, briefcase, computer, keys.......... What a joy!
Now, most of you probably live with this level of order all the time and won't be able to appreciate the significance of a Monday morning without clutter. For the few confessed "messies" who read this blog, just know that you have a kindred spirit down here in FL!

One good thing about being a bit unorganized came to me this morning. I reached under my bed to pick up a pillow (yes, I do make my bed every day) and noticed a magazine that had escaped the neatly piled stack I have under the bed. It was a Better Homes and Gardens from January 2009. (I know it should have been thrown away a long time ago. But BHG is my annual Christmas present from Mom Hawley and I have trouble throwing them away.)

Anyway, the entire magazine was dedicated to getting organized. Which is what made me think of you, dear readers and how great it would be to write to you about the joy of my orderly morning. (Do you think I could be classified as "easily distracted" too? Smile.)

Hope your week is wonderful!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bella: The Horse-Dog

It has come to my attention that a post describing our yellow lab, Bella, is long overdue.

As I write this morning, Bella is lying by the bedroom door with her nose pressed against it. No, she did not just flop down there and that's how it fell. She is poised; ears alert; attentively waiting like a huntress. What in the world is she doing, you ask?

She is patiently waiting for her master (that would be Frank) to wake up.

Side note: Frank woke in the middle of the night and went to the couch so he wouldn't wake me. Collective "AWWWW!" Smile.

I really wish I were able to post a picture for you but you'll just have to use your imagination. This dog is literally lying, looking at the door, waiting for any indication that he is moving. She has been that way for almost twenty minutes now.

Bella is the quintessential version of a modern-day "Lassie" and she warms the heart of her master. Although I refer to her as the horse-dog, I'm told that she is really rather small for a Lab. At approximately 65 pounds and three feet tall!!!

When she bolts out the sliding glass door in the mornings, she invariably uses the top of my foot for a launching pad. And as she stands adoringly before Frank for a head rub, her wagging tail becomes a dangerous weapon pounding anyone nearby - usually me.

When we walk around Lake Hollingsworth together, Frank allows her to swim at one particular spot. It's a heart-warming moment between a man and his loyal pet. He throws the stick, Bella plunges headlong into the water, splashing, swimming, retrieving, receiving affirmation. Then while he's distracted, she SHAKES. Nasty lake water flies through the air like an unleashed fire hydrant spraying - you guessed it - me.

Occasionally, Bella feels the need to chase a neighbor's cat. This urge most often rises in her when Frank has already left for an early hospital visit; leaving ME to run into the front yard after her in my bath robe, screaming like a banshee, "BELLA! Get back here!!" (No, I do not know what a "banshee" is. I only know that Mom always used the phrase in relation to people acting in very unattractive ways.)

Bella came to us as a "gift" (do you hear the dubious tone?) and that is a whole 'nother story. Joy and John had just married and she moved into their new apartment; taking with her their horse-dog, J.J. I remember being so relieved that now, finally, we would have only one little dog in our home. Then came Bella!

On the flip side, I must admit that I feel much safer walking by myself now that I have Bella to accompany me. Although she would be more likely to lick someone to death, they don't know that. And she does lay at my feet in a comfortable sort of way - when Frank isn't home.

Her big amber eyes are a veritable pool of trust, love and adoration. She is the epitome of the little prayer: "Lord, help me to be as wonderful as my dog things I am!" Well, Bella thinks I'm okay; it's Frank she adores.

So, because he has wanted such a dog for the entirety of his life-time. And because I adore him too, Bella is ours for as long as she lives. And in the deep places of my heart, I hope this horse-dog stays around for many years to come.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Grieving Day

I had no idea that grieving is such a long and difficult process.

Living in a parsonage all my life (first as a preacher's kid, then as a preacher's wife) has positioned me to walk alongside grieving people since I was very young. But I had no idea how intense and all-consuming it is.

My earliest experience was with a classmate in seventh grade who lost her mom and counted me as her best friend. I stayed with her through the viewing, the funeral, the limousine ride, the phone calls and visitors. Such a strange world for twelve year old girls.

Then I went home, crawled up on the bed beside my mom and cried. The task had been overwhelming to me and I wondered if I could ever live without my mom who was truly my best friend.

Alice Burke really was the best friend a kid could ever have. She was always interested in basically two things: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Do you know how to have fun? She firmly believed that the two went together.

My mom was the life of every party! Ask anyone who ever attended one with her. I remember parties being planned at our home for the young adults, the children's choir, the young married couples, the board members and their wives, the visiting evangelistic team............. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Mom planned so many parties just so she could attend them! Smile.

I also know for a fact that many people (kids and counselors alike) would choose their week of youth camp based on when my mom would be attending. She was at her best when there was a prank to be pulled or a joke to be told; she couldn't pass up an audience.

And she would drop everything to sit for an hour or so to listen to anyone who needed a dose of compassion blended with a pinch of "kick in the pants." Mom didn't tolerate slackers or whiners.

"Own up to your mess; ask Jesus for help; then get on with it!" That was her philosophy and people knew it before they ever came to see her.

Mom wasn't a theologian; she never was privileged to attend college. (Although, she would have made an excellent English teacher.) But she did have an uncanny ability to read people; she gave wonderful common sense advice; she made everyone think they were her dearest friend; and she dispensed ample doses of laughter to all she encountered.

Her own life wasn't easy; actually, it was full of disappointments. But she firmly believed that we have a choice to either laugh or cry everyday and she chose to laugh.

During our altar time at church on Sunday, John was playing a hymn that triggered a great memory for me. I suddenly had a perfectly clear image of my mom when she was about thirty-five, sitting on the piano bench in our home. She didn't play herself, but she had me teach her one of her favorite hymns so she could play it from memory.

Once she had mastered the basic parts of "There is a Fountain," she wasn't content to keep playing it in the standard way prescribed by the hymnal. No, way! Mom proceeded to syncopate the chords of the otherwise straight-laced music. And she had a pronounced bounce while sitting on that old bench; singing along to her own accompaniment.

If I close my eyes, I can see her plainly; hear her rich alto voice; feel her warmth as I snuggled close; sense the joy and delight of simple pleasure. Sigh.

I've always believed that scripture would be more accurate if interpreted "Costly is the home going of His saints." It is costly to my heart that my precious mom is no longer on this earth. But when I step away from selfishness for just one moment, I can always hear her pretty clearly; laughing loudly and saying to the angel next to her, "Did you ever hear the one about the three preachers in the fishing boat?"

Yep, that would be my mama!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Longing Fulfilled

I am soooo excited as I write this morning. Something I've been anticipating will finally arrive today and I just have to share it with you, dear readers.

It seems that Americans find it very difficult to wait for anything.

Everything from foods to passport pictures have the word "instant" attached to them now. It seems that the current philosophy is: "See it. Want it. Buy it." Can't really afford it? "Charge it." Hmmmmm.

Back in the day, we had something called "Lay Away Plans." For those of you too young to know about this, allow me to briefly explain. A similar philosophy was involved with one minor exception: "See it. Want it. Put it on Lay Away and make small payments until it is completely paid off, then take it home."

I was very pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago to learn that the furniture store I was looking in, still utilized this excellent philosophy. I found the armoire that met all the specifications important to me and I was really interested. The sales person immediately launched into their excellent plan of: "Sign here and take it home right away, no need to wait at all!"

Unfortunately for them, Frank and I try very hard to avoid credit of any sort these days. Just as I was ready to leave, the salesman said, "Are you familiar with Lay Away?" (Now you're talking!) That was about three months ago and we've slowly been adding to the down payment. First this little bit of change then that little extra honorarium. My birthday "gifts" put us over the top!

In my mind, I've rearranged my bedroom countless times during these three months of waiting. It has really been fun to dream and imagine how the piece will look with the dresser and bed I already have. (The matching dresser is also on "lay away" for later this year.)

And as I sit here writing, Frank and John are on their way to Haverty's to pick up my lovely, longed for armoire. Not gonna lie, I'm very excited! (Yes, I'm aware that flat screen TV's have made armoires kind of archaic. But this is a lovely piece of furniture still and will serve well for many years to come.)

While writing a sermon once, I felt prompted that one of the points should be about longing. Don't you remember longing for that special gift at Christmas? It was more special than any other! And you could probably tell your own great story right now about that gift. Or longing for a degree, or relationship, or baby, or.............. Somehow the longing causes things to be more treasured, more appreciated, more valued.

Waiting and longing have somehow become ugly concepts in our world today. But perhaps there was a reason God intentionally built delay into our world. Hmmmmmm.

Must run vacuum the spot where the old chest has been sitting. Besides I think I can hear sleigh bells coming around the corner and I can tell you that it has been well worth the wait! Smile.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Florida in August

August is NOT the time to visit Florida!

I know that the visitors bureau would like to squelch this information but you must be told. Do NOT visit Florida in August! It is entirely too hot and humid and buggie for anyone to really enjoy themselves. I should know; I grew up here and now live here again. Don't come in August.

October, March even January are good months for a fabulous trip to FL. But if you come during the months of summer, you come at your own risk! I am more thankful for air conditioning than most people; especially now that "power surges" are a regular part of life for me.

Believe it or not, I remember the evening my dad put the first "window unit" air conditioner in our little house on Creighton Road in Pensacola. Up until that night, we had always depended on the attic fan and "box" fans placed strategically in each room for cooling during the sweltering summers.

(Yes, I AM that old as a matter of fact! I also used an outhouse at my grandmother's church once - so there. Wanna see my AARP membership card?! Smile.)

Now, I find it hard to believe that we lived, worked, went to school and church, cooked (no pun intended) in this heat! Whew! If I had been an adult, I probably would have moved to North Carolina sooner. Yeah, it wasn't very hard for me to make that transition when Frank looked at me with those gorgeous blue eyes over thirty years ago and asked, "Do you think you could ever live outside FL?"

"With you? Let me think......Definitely!!!!" Smile. Well, I didn't answer him quite that quickly. He needed to sweat just a little. Men need to believe that they have "won the prize"; isn't that how it goes?

So after a nice walk this morning at the nature preserve near our home, Frank and I are opting for an afternoon involving adult water sports (washing the car and dogs). As well as time spent in air conditioned rooms and vehicles. I feel certain that I probably lost twelve pounds while walking this morning - I was glistening profusely.

Mom always said: "Horses sweat; men perspire; ladies glisten!" Come to FL next August and I can promise you, you will GLISTEN! Count on it!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's Appropriate - Really?

I have no desire to shock or offend anyone; but this question comes straight from my heart:

When did our "National Uniform for Public Appearances" change from jeans and a cute t-shirt to ill-fitting sweat pants and an equally inappropriate sweat shirt?! I never received the memo indicating that we are now a Nation of Slovenly Dressers.

(Now the mere fact that I used the word "slovenly" indicates to you, dear reader, that this post is neither fair nor balanced in any way today! Smile.)

Yesterday, I ran by the store to pick up a few last minute items for Joy's birthday dinner. (We were late celebrating.) And it was there, in the local Wal-mart, somewhere around the cereal aisle that I began to be aware of this strange phenomenon. Everyone looked like they had just rolled out of bed on a Saturday morning!

(Yes, I know that Robin and my sister -both Target fans- will say that the problem was from being in the wrong store. Maybe.)

I was dressed for my day at the office with a nice shirt, skirt and sandals with a small heel. Certainly nothing elaborate. But I realized after just a few minutes of dashing about the produce section that people were looking at me as though I had just come from a wedding or something.

The irony of the moment struck me with great humor. I was staring at them in shock (actually I was catching glimpses in a subtle manner - Mom would NEVER have allowed us to stare.) And they were just as shocked at my attire. Some went so far as to poke their fellow shopper in the ribs so they both could stare. I made a game of trying to make eye contact so I could smile at them and nod my head in the traditional southern-belle-grocery-store-greeting. Such Fun!

Please do not misunderstand, I love my lounging clothes. Those deliciously soft, delightfully stretchy clothes that are full of grace and comfortable elastic. And yes, I have been guilty of running into the store dressed in such when a child was sick, we've just finished a walk or when we have been traveling.

But I've never wanted to go to the store dressed in clothing that looks like it belongs either to my husband or to my ten year old niece!! And that's what I saw in Wal-mart yesterday; again and again. Folks wandering the aisles in sweat pants that would have fit much l-a-r-g-e-r individuals and other folks who looked like they could only find things that used to fit them! And no one uses an iron anymore!

You know I've confessed that I'm not a "fashionista" in any way! I am totally dependent on others to match my clothing and create new outfits. But this one thing I do know - I want to be clean, pressed and lookin' my best when I go out into public!

Yep, this was a soap box post today. But it felt like the topic just begged to be: ad-dressed! Smile.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Marking Miracles

Saturday was a very big day around the Hawley household: Joy reached the quarter-century mark! I can hardly believe that it was twenty-five years ago when they placed that beautiful little girl in my arms. How does the time fly by so quickly?!

The story of Joy's birth is really quite amazing; she was born with Hyaline Membrane Disease (more commonly referred to today as Respiratory Distress Syndrome.) Our pediatrician warned us right away that her case was severe and the prognosis was not good; her chances of living were questionable.

We spent nine agonizing days learning more about blood reports, blood gases, oxygen levels...........than any set of new parents should ever be expected to grasp. Her tiny 6 lb. 9 0z. frame laid almost completely hidden by medical tape, wires, tubes and such; struggling for every breath. She was working so hard that each time she breathed in, an indentation would form just over her sternum that could have easily contained a half-cup of water.

A small "oxygen box" covered her head and we were not allowed to hold her at all; it was too dangerous, they said. Frank and I sat or stood by the incubator for hours at a time softly stroking her tiny arms or legs, trying our best to avoid the many wires and tubes. And we sang and read scripture! We started out whispering, but after a couple of days, we didn't particularly care who heard us. Our baby was deathly ill and needed hope.

I still remember the faces of the nurses and Dr. Yoder, who was her primary physician in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. The sounds, the smells, the hushed tones throughout the night - this post is too short for me to paint the full, vivid picture for you that remains still in my memories.

The wonderful news is this: God miraculously intervened in the life of Alicia Joy! And now, twenty-five years later, she has enjoyed the best set of lungs in the family and will be blessed with her own little miracle in a little over six months.

We are well aware that not every parent in that NICU was blessed with the same outcome we experienced. Were we more special? Were we more diligent in our prayers than the others? Was Joy's destiny somehow greater than the other babies'? No! We must humbly answer no to each of those questions. It was simply in the sovereignty of God's plan that Joy should live.

And live she does!

She has been well aware of this truth all these years and has tried her best to live honoring God who gave the miracle.

Of course, when you stop to think about it aren't we all living a miracle of sorts? Every breath is a gift to be appreciated and savored. Perhaps it would do us all well to stop and ask, "Am I living a life that reflects my gratitude for this miracle?" Hmmmmmm. Just a thought.

Happy Twenty-fifth, Joy!! Be blessed!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Princess

There is a very definite reason why I often refer to Gracie as "stupid dog" - because quite simply she is, a stupid dog!

(For those just joining Embrace the Grace, Gracie is my little black and white shih tzu dog who thinks she is the princess of the household. She weighs about twelve pounds, has black button eyes, and a rather serious under bite that makes her look just like Elvis Presley when she peers up at you. We all have our flaws.)

Anyway, the princess was in a wild-child mood this morning and kept doing her morning loop long after I thought appropriate. (Morning Loop: Gracie runs full speed around the living room, hits the love seat and sails right back off in a single bound, continuing on around the living room again at break-neck speed. This wild behavior is typically repeated three times after which said dog collapses in a heap, places her head on her paws, sighs contentedly as though she had just completed the Boston Marathon, looks up for affirmation from whatever human happens to be nearby.) Yep, a princess!

I was moving a bit slowly and wanted her to calm down; which wasn't happening. (Wednesdays are long crate days for both Gracie and Bella so she was running off a little "crate congestion" maybe.) I settled in with my lap quilt, Bible, journal and was just reaching across to set my coffee on the coaster when my own little "Flying Wallenda" attempted her love-seat-sail and crashed directly into my arm which was, of course, the one holding the coffee!

Cafe Vienna sloshed all over the end table, my Bible, my journal, the floor, my off-white leather sofa.......... What's the caption in cartoons? "AAGGGGHHHHH!!!!" To make matters worse, when I hissed her name in my most displeased hissing manner, she totally missed the point and thought I was calling her to come sit with me and snuggle! Stupid Dog!!

While I crawled around on the floor trying to mop up the mess, she kept trying to get as close as possible. Wagging her little plume tail, looking up at me adoringly, sporting the Elvis lip. It seemed for all the world that she would at any moment say, "Thank you! Thank you, very much!" What is a pet owner to do, I ask you?!

So now, as I write, the princess is curled contentedly beside me. Left paw tucked under her chin for support. She is completely oblivious to all the uproar she caused. When she first crashed into me, a children's song immediately came to mind:
"On a day like this,
On a day like this,
On a day like this - I need the Lord to help me!"

And indeed, I do!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Special Cup

I love mornings!

Now, don't worry. I have enough sense to not be some ridiculous, in your face, "What's wrong with you, sleepy head?" kind of person. You know, the annoying/chipper people who love morning and feel personally offended if you don't share their passion.

No, I've had too many encounters with night-owls who don't understand why I fall into a semi-conscious state around 9:30 most evenings. That level of harassment will cause you to be more kind when the same people can't seem to enjoy your enthusiasm for a sunrise. "To each his own body-clock!" That's my philosophy.

But I did get a tiny thrill when I stumbled out of our bedroom this morning and realized that my new coffee mug was ready and waiting for use. So here I sit in my dining room; looking out the sliding glass door; delighting in the modulating colors of the sky; listening to the fountain in my goldfish pond; drinking coffee from my new blue and brown mug; sharing with friends. (Uh, that would be you!)

I am a creature of habit and this new coffe mug is kind of a big deal. I've had a favorite cup that has served me loyally for almost twelve years now. It's sturdy enough for the microwave (and obviously the dishwasher.) White ceramic with whimsical Coca-cola symbols predominantly in pastel hues to give it a decidedly feminine flair.

Seldom does anyone else in the family drink from this cup because.....well, it's Mom's cup. I do have other cups as well. (Those who have helped empty the dishwasher at my house will attest to that.) And they are all special in their own way. These two were birthday gifts, these brought home by friends from missions trips, these are strictly used for hot tea and so on.

But the Coca-cola cup is extra special because it has shared so many things with me. In winter, it has offered warmth; in summer, consistency. It's been sitting by as I've laughed with visitors around the table; it has caught my tears when I've felt lonely. It joins me for devotions and has often signaled leisure when there has been time for a second cup of coffee.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of having a favorite cup is that is has given my husband a sure-fire (southern term but totally merited here) delivery method for the all-important "love notes" he often leaves. You know, little scraps of paper tucked inside the cup he KNOWS I'll reach for in the morning. And even though he is long gone- hospital visit, breakfast meeting, gym- I'll smile as it flutters out on to the counter and think warm thoughts. Hmmmmmm.

So why a new cup, you ask?

The reasoning is a bit odd. (But so is drinking from the same cup every morning for twelve years. Sigh.) I have just had this feeling lately that a new season of my life is about to begin and that it needs to be marked - by faith. I've also just come through a rather serious struggle and that "break-through" needs to be marked as well. Sooooooo, a new cup!

It speaks to me every morning that God's mercies are new for today, change is possible, keep hoping because He is faithful, prayers do get answered. (That's a lot of reminding for one little cup. Smile.) Sometimes we just need a tangible reminder of what's going on that we can't see. God is always at work; we can be sure of that!

Do you have a favorite cup? I'd love to hear about it. Right now I have to figure out how to let Frank know I've made a change - don't want to miss any love notes. Smile.