Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In a Nutshell

This week we are working diligently on the web page for our church. Let me tell you, this is no small chore!

There is so much involved with this technology that Frank and I don't know about or understand. Directing this venture that will represent our church to the public at large is tough! It feels a little bit like a blind man driving up a mountainside.

(Not that I'm blind and would have any idea what that feels like really - I just thought it sounded suitably dramatic. Smile.)

Fortunately, Frank has done an excellent job of staffing to our weaknesses (just like John Maxwell has taught us.) And we are surrounded with people who DO understand what we're trying to do.

Still, determining the text that will best represent our congregation on the World Wide Web is a daunting task. Then add to this the fact that the generation we're targeting (20-35 year olds) won't take time to read long, flowery explanations. They want bullet points:
  • Live Well
  • Love Much
  • Laugh Often
Now, I happen to love that succinct philosophy for life as much as the next guy/gal. (I have this very quote on a plaque in my kitchen. You know, the resin banner that looks like a grapevine; the one from Kirkland's? Smile.)

But all this work with wording for the website made me start wondering. How would I summarize my life philosophy in 144 characters or less; is that even possible? (For those of you in my generation who want to be "in the know"- 144 characters is the standard length of a text that under-30's will take time to actually read or process. Oops see, I'm over the limit right there. Sigh.)

So this morning, when I came across this great thought in Ephesians 5, I immediately stopped to ponder. "Find out what pleases God." There it is, in a nutshell! Just live with a simple purpose: to find out what pleases God, then do that. Certainly uncomplicates things, doesn't it?!

I think my Presbyterian friends have had it right all along. Part of their catechism says: "The chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever." I really like that!

So, I'm heading out into my busy world today carrying one simple thought as my goal - find out what pleases God and do it!

Hope you enjoy success doing the same!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Such a funny story!

If you've been reading "Embrace the Grace," it doesn't take long to realize that our family has a decidedly warped sense of humor. We came by this honestly - it was my mom who so often said, "In this life you're going to laugh a lot or cry a lot. I choose to laugh!"

We've all adopted her philosophy to the best of our ability and have truthfully found it to be the best of the two options.

Hence the humor in the following story. Last night, Meagan and Nathan found themselves on a very special "dress-up date". Meagan's braces were removed yesterday and with perfect timing Nathan got a pay check so they had planned this very special evening of dual celebration. Nathan arrived totally decked out in suit and tie - so debonair! And Meagan chose a simple black dress - her smile was brilliant enough on its own!

(I only wish my blog included photography so you could see pictures of the truly handsome couple! I'll bet there will be some on Smithellaneous very soon. Smile.)

Off they went, laughing together and beaming.

Meagan said Nathan (who planned the date entirely on his own - three cheers for chivalry) had chosen a terrific restaurant and they were having a perfect evening when IT happened.

Meagan turned her head to sneeze and immediately felt a draft. The invisible zipper in her little black dress gave way and left her with only two connection points: the hook and eye at top and two fragile teeth clinging together halfway down her side.

SHOCK! Total and complete shock!! What to do?

She did what every other self-respecting 22 year old would do in such a horrendously embarrassing moment - she burst out laughing! (Yeah, I know. Laughing isn't normally the first reaction but maybe it should be.)

Nathan diverted his attention like a perfect gentleman. Then Meagan gathered enough composure to clamp her arm to her side and slip to where several waitresses were standing. "Where is your restroom? And could one of you come with me - I have a problem!"

She said the waitress worked with the nylon zipper but had no success. A second waitress was called in for back up. While the dress wasn't really tight, it would not go over her head so she could get it off and work on it herself. The two waitresses were stumped and said they were going to get more assistance.

Meagan was left to wait in the bathroom, all alone, gaping dress, no phone to text Nate.......but she did have the camera in her hand for some odd reason. So she entertained herself making a short video because she knew her sisters would never believe it! Smile.

Finally, an older waitress came in to assess the situation. She then sent a waiter running down the block to CVS for safety pins. He was a Ninja because he took time to think through choosing a package of black and white safety pins instead of the silver ones as he was pretty sure the girl stuck in the bathroom had been wearing a black dress! Well Done!

The wait staff then sifted through the lost and found bin and gave Meagan a lovely black sweater which had been left behind by some earlier patron. (New York and Co.; she was quite pleased!)

Meagan made her way back to the table; walking carefully so as not to pop any of the eight safety pins holding her dress together. The cute couple finished dessert. (Nate is in college for heaven's sake. You can't waste dessert!) Then made their way back to Winter Haven.

Little Black Dress - Zipperless
New Sweater - Much Appreciated
Perfect Evening - Not So Much

Great Memory - PRICELESS!!

Hope your week-end holds much humor.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Joyous News

We already know that the grandchild which will be born to us at some point early February has a most accommodating personality. How do you know this you may ask? Because yesterday as the ultrasound technician prodded and plied at Joy's tummy, the little one politely turned so as to readily reveal an identity.

IT'S A BOY!!!!!

What you thought was a sonic boom yesterday was actually Frank pounding his desk then pumping his fists in the air and yelling, "A grandson! It's a boy!!" After all these years of estrogen flowing around him, the tide is finally turning. He senses that balance will soon be restored around our dinner table. Smile.

I could immediately envision little blue jeans rolled up to fit chubby legs; a sweaty brow under ball caps; wide grins; big eyes; feet that climb and run - always run! Oh my, I am breathless with anticipation.

Yes, we hit the baby section at Wal-mart for a few minutes yesterday. Frank had to tell three different people (all strangers of course) that we're expecting a grandson in February.

We bought a Carolina Blue t-shirt, a hoodie with a minuscule zipper, tiny tennis shoes, a nerf football, and Frank's personal favorite - jeans with a sticker identifying them as Official Jeans of Brett Favre. (Brett Favre is John's favorite football player.)

Such Fun!!

I want to thank you for all the comments left yesterday. Your willingness to celebrate with us is a special treat. Each one brought a smile. Thanks for taking that time.

Must run before the day rolls on without me. But I just had to let you know -
It's A Boy!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Day of Joy

The day has finally arrived! Yes, today is the day we've been anticipating for so long!! This very afternoon, Frank and I will walk into a store here in central FL. We will wander the aisles for a few moments and with great care, some giggling, maybe even a couple of joy-filled tears, we will select something PINK or something BLUE.

Today we will know if our grandbaby is a boy or a girl!!!!

Truth be known, the gender of this child is irrelevant to us; we are already head over heels in love. But knowing the gender will greatly aid us in the purchases we plan to begin making TODAY! Smile.

Yes, there will be a copious quantity of green items (Frank's favorite color) and even a few yellow things. But the most fun is found in purchasing either frills, ribbons, lace and bows or trucks, caps, tools and trains.

(I'm aware that we are completely out of control. Please bear with us just a moment. Our financial reality - which is similar to everyone else's - will bring us back to our senses pretty quickly. Smile.)

It is hard to fathom that this time last year, we were still grieving the loss of our first longed-for grandchild. (Joy and John experienced a miscarriage and it has taken some time to recover from that sorrow. We will always know that their first little one is being cared for by Mema, who arrived in heaven just weeks before.)

But here we are standing on the cusp of a whole new season in all our lives and I am overcome with gratitude! God is forever gracious and faithful.

Perhaps you've noticed an unidentifiable glow coming from the direction of upstate NY recently. That's because the other "first time G-mama" is beaming just as brightly as I am. Linda and John can hardly contain themselves.

Well, I'm sure all this giddiness is more intense on the part of the grandmothers. But the granddads are pretty pleased as well. Thank heaven for stable men. Smile.

Rest assured, dear readers - there WILL be a new post tomorrow morning. Maybe even tonight! Smile.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I am an ardent and unashamed lover of traditions!

If you've never had the privilege of watching "Tevia" sing about tradition (Fiddler on the Roof) well, you have just missed it! Traditions offer continuity, they demonstrate connectedness, they express value.......the list goes on and on.

Tonight we will share in celebrating the birthday of a special young man - Mr. Nathan Andrew Smith who happens to be turning 21 years old! We are blessed to be marking this birthday with Nathan for several reasons: He has been a friend of our family for many years; he is currently attending SEU (which is essentially in our back yard); his dad flew down from NC to host this celebration; and (drum-roll, please) he is the boyfriend of our youngest daughter. (Cymbal crash. Smile.)

So right now the family is engaged in a last minute flurry of activity preparing burgers for the grill, wrapping gifts, hanging streamers, arranging chairs, etc. (I am excused from said activities this time because we just returned from a conference and I'm breathing for a moment.)

But that's exactly the point. Our family birthday celebrations have had certain elements of tradition for so many years now that the girls can make it happen all on their own. They add new ideas, their own personal flair and there you have it - tradition....improved! Better still, we will also be adding "Smith Family Traditions" for this evening. Ahhhh, the richness!

There were many times through the years that I wondered if maintaining "traditions" even mattered to anyone else in the family. So much effort was required; was it really that important? The answer is a resounding "YES!" Young moms out there, it really does matter.

I would encourage you to keep your traditions simple, easily manageable. Remember, you want to enjoy repeating this not spending the whole year dreading that it's coming up again. Smile.

And include as many family members as you can. Give age appropriate assignments. Then have fun! The important thing is the repetition not the lavishness of the tradition. (And that's good news in any economy.)

Time for me to join the festivities. But I just want to encourage you - add tradition to your next celebration. You will see the dividends for years to come.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's About Time

The past few days I've been staying up later than usual and still getting up very early. Then I saw a facebook comment by a friend who summed it up beautifully, "I stay up late at night only to realize the next morning that this is not a good idea!" Smile.

So I wondered again for the millioneth time, why is it that some of us are night owls and others know that the darkest hour truly is just before dawn? (Frank is the night owl in our family. But he graciously adapted to turning in early and getting up early soon after we married. Probably because I was more grumpy than him if we did it the other way. Sigh.)

I guess we are all just looking for a little slice of quiet and solitude in our hectic lives!

For some (Frank, my friend, my kids) that happens at night after everyone else has turned in and the house is quiet; the phone quits ringing; children, birds, dogs and even bullfrogs have gone silent. For others (like me) that moment comes just before daylight when everyone is blissfully dreaming or already reading their own devotions. There are no expectations; you aren't "behind"; the moment belongs completely to you!

Ahhhhhh! Do you feel the calm?

I've heard more than a few preachers talk about living in that state of calm all the time. Sounds a little like "Nirvana" to me. Smile. But then I read Psalm 23 again and realize that:
  • The calm is for my soul, not my circumstances.
  • He leads me there - I'm not required to get there on my own.
  • There is no room for fear in this state.
  • No enemy is allowed to harass me there.
Okay, so this is a location worth finding. (Does anyone have those co-ordinates in their GPS?!)

Yes, I know. The address is one already listed: Psalm 23. Whether you make the journey late at night or early in the morning, be sure to visit daily. Your family will thank you as does mine!

Oh you must have this little funny for today. At our ladies meeting last night, we used the old playground game "Telephone" to illustrate our point for the evening. (You remember. One person starts a phrase which is then whispered from person to person. The last one tells what they heard and it seldom matches the initial phrase?)

So our starting phrase was: "All I want to do when the day is through is linger here on the front porch with you." Some groups came close to repeating it correctly, others did not! Our favorite for the evening was the table that ended with: "All I want to do is sit on the front porch and eat wings with you!" Ya gotta love it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peaking in the Window

Honesty is the best policy - that's what they say.

When our board members and their wives arrived at our house last night, everything was ready. The table was beautifully decorated and set; the air was fragrant with the promise of good food; soft music played in the background; I looked like I had been meditating on the veranda; candles flickered invitingly.

But let's rewind just one short hour.

  • I had worked through lunch in order to leave the office early.
  • Dashed by the grocery store to pick up the last few items needed.
  • Sat in the parking lot taking a phone call and trying desperately to finish the list of said items.
  • Got home and realized I didn't have all twelve bowls/salad plates I needed. (My dishes have been retrieved from some of the most unusual locations. Smile.)
  • Began sauteing the onions and celery I needed to add to my main dish. (Main dish was mostly prepared on Sunday night.)
  • Focusing (with Kristin's help) on options for seating twelve in my dining area which is designed for six - maybe eight.
  • Grabbed the season salt from the cabinet and gave a quick shake to finish off the sauteing process - disaster struck! The lid came off and one third of the season salt shaker plopped into the pan! Sigh. (Really, that was more of a double sigh moment.)
I wanted to cry but the emergency demanded calm. I salvaged what I could and added it to the main dish knowing that it wouldn't really be enough to give the flavoring necessary. And when the tears did come a few minutes later I had to ask the harsh question, "Why am I crying?!"

I dearly love all the people who were coming to my house. Kristin, Frank and Amanda had arrived and were helping get everything together. I wasn't making some extravagant french dish - it was home made vegetable beef soup and salad for pity's sake! (Yeah, I know you're shaking your head in disbelief right now. I'm embarrassed to admit that was dinner but this is about honesty. Smile.)

The truth came to me like a flood. I hate not being Superwoman!

I want people to think that I can handle a full-time office position; direct the ministries assigned to my care with excellence; attend to the emotional needs of those around me; address decisions that must be made with wisdom; prepare teachings that sound just like Beth Moore; throw dinner parties for twelve and never break a sweat!

But I can't. I need help just like everyone else around me.

Hmmmmm. Today I think I'll stay close to the best help: "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my refuge, my deliverer." And I probably need to be delivered most from my own expectations!

There's the peak inside my kitchen window. Hope your day is peace-filled.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Okay, so right now I'm attempting to take a deep breath that I hope will tide me over until next Sunday night.

Occasionally, our wonderful life really lights up with excitement and this will be one of those weeks. We have meetings every single night (including tonight but I skipped out. Smile.) There will be a district wide ministry training on Friday and Saturday. My dad is coming down to spend the week with us. Another friend will be arriving just before Dad leaves. And of course there will be all the standard meetings that go into a regular week. Are we there yet?!

It would seem overwhelming except - we enjoy "living large"!! My sister (Vonnie) has often said, "Sheri, your life gives me heartburn. I get off the phone with you and go find my Tums!"

And believe it or not, there are blessings that go along with all this chaotic clamor.
  • Dad requires very little entertaining. He just enjoys hanging out, going to lunch, a little fishing, visiting a few friends. Really pretty easy. Of course, he does prefer to hold the remote control while he and Frank watch FOX news. Age trumps home ownership.
  • The evening events are meetings we will enjoy and other than one meal and an agenda, they will pretty much run themselves.
  • I get to teach a workshop at the ministry training event this weekend and I'm very excited about that!
  • Our pastor friend who will be coming is an exemplary house guest and asked only for a blanket, a pillow and a towel to be happy. Smile.
  • The house is all clean and the laundry is even put away! (Collective ahhhhh.)
I will probably hold tightly to a new favorite verse this week: "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."

Yep, that thought should get me to Thursday at least! Smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just a Thought

Shortest post of all time!

My battery is low; my day is full; my heart is overflowing. Nothing especially unusual has happened, I was just reminded early this morning how important gratitude is in each of our lives.

So today I'm counting blessings: a Godly husband, family, friends, church family, health, blue skies, cloudy skies, eyes to see the skies! Smile. As I sat quietly and began to ponder the blessings of my life in the midst of difficulty, my whole attitude changed.

I guess Paul knew something when he encouraged us to find contentment in ALL our circumstances.

Yep, shortest post of all time. But I hope it gives you the challenge of creating your own l-o-n-g list of blessing!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Across the Pond

So, again I apologize for waiting this long to write. Between our company, Labor Day, normal church obligations, etc. it's just been a bit tough to find a quiet moment. But finally! Gracie is snuggled up beside me on the love seat; Bella is waiting patiently for Frank by the bedroom door; everyone else is enjoying their final REM cycle and I'm getting to write. Ahhhh!

I thought I would tell you a bit about our dear friends, Phil and Sue Parsons. First off, isn't it just delightful that they are pastors in England and their last name is Parsons?! That could have only been topped if their name had been Vicars. Smile. At any rate, we met them over twenty years ago when they preached for our home church in Asheville, NC. But we didn't really come to know them until eleven years ago.

God used Phil to help push us toward a path He had ordered for our feet. Frank had literally just finished a resignation letter for the church we were pastoring. And had no idea what the next step would be for us. (This is typically NOT a good idea in pastoral work; you first secure your next pastorate, then you resign. Smile.) Frank just simply prayed, "Lead us, Lord. Whatever You have, we'll do!"

Within the hour the phone rang and it was Phil Parsons calling to say the Lord had laid us on his heart and he felt impressed to "ring us up". (Phil didn't even have our number, he had to contact a mutual friend then call us but the timing was impeccable.) Frank shared that we were leaving our church; Phil said, "Come to England and minister!"; we started actively praying about it; miracles began to happen (too many for right now - another post); and four months later our entire family was traveling in England singing and preaching.

That's the short version of how Family to Family was born. When we returned to the states, we continued to travel for six years! It was an amazing season of our lives that was launched by that timely phone call. God truly does "order our footsteps" if we will listen.

Since that time, we've visited back and forth consistently about every two years and stay in touch with phone calls, email and now facebook! They are gentle, sincere people who love God, their family and others. It's always fun to be around them. I thought you might enjoy some of their unique English-isms today. (You should read these with a rather refined English accent echoing in your head; something like Hugh Grant or Dame Judy Dench.)

  • "Ah, there's lovely!" (Used for delightful or tender moments. Sunsets, end of the movie kisses, baby smiles, etc.)
  • "She crunched the bonnet." (The hood of her car is crushed.)
  • "Where's the bin?" (Do you have a trash can?)
  • "Toe-mah-toes, Oar-ah-gah-no, sault" (Recipe ingredients: tomato, oregano, salt)
  • "What!" (Used as an exclamation point expressing surprise or great emotion. "He turned rather quickly. What!" "I say, that's an exorbitant cost. What!" "Ah, there's lovely. What!")
  • "Shall I put on the kettle?" (Would you care for a cup of hot tea? With milk, of course! This phrase will be used five or six times per day.)
  • "Right." (Anything from: let's get started to I suppose you were correct.)
  • "Isn't it mah-velous?!" (This is the equivalent of "Oh, good grief!")
  • "Brilliant!" (This has nothing to do with intelligence. It is used for indicating appreciation/admiration of someone or something. "This pizza is brilliant!" "That presentation was most moving. He is a brilliant musician.")
Great, aren't they?! Have a blessed day and remember that your steps are ordered as well.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Some of you may find the story I'm about to tell slightly hard to believe. But I assure you this is completely true. Nothing has been fabricated; nothing has been embellished. It is simply an indication of how personal and amazing our heavenly father truly is!

Our friends, Phil and Sue, have arrived from England. We picked them up at Tampa International late yesterday. Then the four of us traveled on toward Venice, FL to enjoy a couple of days at a "mission house" that had been made available to us.

We rose early this morning and shared a leisurely breakfast. Then it was off to the beach for a couple of hours before the heat became too much. We found a particular spot we had visited before. Kind of off the beaten path near a jetty where dolphins and manatee can be spotted at certain times of the year.

The water was absolutely fabulous. A clear green-blue near the shore and a rich sapphire deeper out. This beach is on the gulf side of FL so the water is extremely calm; almost like a lake at times. We got our chairs and umbrellas all situated then decided the water was calling so we headed out for a swim.

It was really lovely because the seaweed is minimal and you are able to see straight to the bottom quite clearly. We spent about twenty minutes playing in the water, swimming, floating, threatening to splash each other (but not following through on the threat because we're over fifty! Smile.)

We turned to go back to the shore when a lady about twenty feet from us called out, "Look! There's a manatee right there!" She was pointing just in front of herself and her friend. We excitedly headed over to where she was and could clearly see the huge mammal swimming directly in front of us.

As we got closer, we were able to see that it was not one manatee but four, all gliding silently through the water. We couldn't believe our eyes! They were now within five feet of us and acting as though we were simply another form of aquatic life. What happened next is the unbelievable part.

Frank (always fearless) eased up to one of the gentle giants and reached out to touch it! The manatee didn't seem alarmed in any way. So the lady who initially alerted us to them also reached out to touch one. It was then that the magic really started.

All six of us (Frank, Phil, Sue, Molly, Grace, and myself) began easing up to these mammoth creatures and slowly allowing them to glide under our hands. It soon became evident that the manatee were just as curious about us as we were about them. All four continued to "swim" around our little group allowing us to touch or rub them gently.

We spoke rather quietly to one another; no one wanted to startle the visitors. But Molly shared with us that she had lived on this beach since the 70's and had never seen anything like this. I couldn't help but exclaim, "Oh, what a marvelous kiss from heaven!" The other lady (Grace) softly clapped her hands and said several times, "Oh thank you, God!" It was indeed a moment of divine grace.

The highlight came after about fifteen minutes. One of the monsters had come back by Frank several times. (They were identifiable because of scars on their backs from propellers that had gotten too close at various times.) The manatee hesitated near Frank for a moment then effortlessly rolled over on its back for Frank to rub its belly. We couldn't believe what we were seeing!

Of course, Frank obliged the silent request of our new friend! He rubbed the manatee until the giant casually rolled back over and appeared to be studying Frank. It was incredible, truly incredible. The tummy rub was repeated several times and the pod even allowed us to touch the "baby" which was only about seven feet long. The others were all ten to twelve feet in length and we learned that most adults weigh a thousand pounds on average.


We could never have justified paying for such an experience but the Lord graciously provided the delight for us free of charge. The foursome finally tired of us and silently glided on to search for easy feeding ground.

This morning I lived the literal truth of the scripture which says, "No one can imagine the joys He has in store for those who love Him."

That's the story - in full! We did get a few pictures which I will endeavor with all diligence to post for you at some point next week. This you gotta see! Smile.