Friday, October 29, 2010

Fabulous Fall!

Oh my goodness, how we miss fall, living in Florida!

Don't get me wrong, Florida has its seasons too:
  • There's love bug season - the three weeks during which small black bugs fly around in massive swarms causing serious nastiness by splattering themselves on car windshields and grills. This actually occurs twice annually; oh joy!
  • Then we have a rainy season. Nearly every afternoon at 4:00 you know to reach for your umbrella. (Only to remember that you left it where you were yesterday at four o'clock!)
  • We have a hot season of course. And once that subsides, there is a hotter season!
  • And don't forget the all important tourist season! We're told that for every 85 tourists who visit FL, one job is created. So, to all our tourist friends I'd like to say, "Come on down!" Smile.
Yes, we have seasons; they just aren't exactly like the ones we enjoyed while living in North Carolina. And this morning I'm very thankful that it's a little cooler because this is the time of year that Frank seems to miss his home state the most.

When you spend the first eighteen years of your life experiencing crisp, cool air in October and all the fun activities that accompany fall, I guess your biological adjusters are adjusted to accept such as acceptable and anything else feels......well, unacceptable! (Did you understand all that highly technical, scientific jargon?! Smile.)

We've always had special places where we love taking walks; no matter where we've lived. And while in the mountains, that place was a short trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you've ever been privileged to travel the Parkway, you know how beautiful it is. Fall had to be our favorite time for being outdoors.

All the reds, golds, yellows looked like a patchwork quilt blanketing the mountainsides. And invariably someone would be burning leaves. We'd snuggle into the warmth of our jackets. We would savor the bright red of our little girls' cheeks and rub their tiny, cold fingers against our own faces.

Fall signaled the time for hot apple cider with Mullins seasoning, chili, and vegetable beef soup. Wardrobe switches - which took an entire weekend when the girls were little; involving hired help! Hay rides, trips through the corn maze and always a visit to Bellamy farms for "Heritage Weekend".

Joy brought back leaves for us when she and John visited family in New York a few weeks ago. My favorite leaves are still the red maples. (We've planted a FL red maple in our yard but it isn't quite the same. Sigh.)

I suppose that all this fall musing must surely bring me back to a scripture I've pondered a lot through the years: "Godliness with contentment brings great gain."

No sense being unhappy about not getting to experience fall firsthand this year. Life is full of "seasons" too and each one must be embraced by choice.

Yep, I miss NC fall weather - no two ways around it! But contentment is my choice today. (And this little "cold snap" certainly does help.)

If you happen to be a reader who is blessed to be smack in the middle of fabulous fall weather this weekend, take a moment to step outside and enjoy some for Frank and me. Thanks!

We'll be sure to return the favor in January. Smile.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Outfit Doesn't Matter

Such a shocking reality check took place this afternoon - and I'm sure you will enjoy it!

Meagan (our youngest daughter) teaches K-4 at a pre-school here in Winter Haven. Today, I ran by to borrow her car for a while. She was on the playground with her class when I arrived and she called me to come over. So I quickly headed across the parking lot to meet her little ones.

Now, most of you will remember the horrors I've periodically described about my life as a fashion-challenged woman. But I actually felt pretty good about what I had worn to work today.

(The problem reached epic proportions last week at the conference where I was the guest speaker. They had a great t-shirt designed specifically for their event and the leadership decided to wear the shirts with jeans for the final meeting. I worked in my hotel room for almost an hour trying to create an outfit composed of jeans and a t-shirt that made me feel:
  • confident enough to speak;
  • camouflaged enough to not jiggle;
  • conformed to the chosen uniform.
I failed miserably and finally fell exhausted into bed after determining to just wear what the girls had originally selected for me. Sigh.)

Back to the original story.

When Meagan called, I proceeded to crisply "priss" (southern term meaning: to walk as though you think you are cuter than you probably actually are) across the parking lot. I was wearing brown capris, a green top and little sandals that just brought the whole thing together. It's an outfit that makes me feel quite young and contemporary; if I do say so. That's when it happened.

(Cue scripture quotation: "Pride goes before a fall!" Smile.)

An adorable little guy with huge blue eyes and a brunette bowl cut stood pulling on the chain link fence. He spotted me coming across the parking lot and his face lit up like Christmas which of course made my heart soar. He started waving excitedly and calling out-

(Wait for it.............)


I stopped dead in my tracks. The tiny guy thought I looked like his grandmother!!

Yes, I know that technically I am already a grandma since Joy and John are now six months pregnant. But don't you get an adjustment period for becoming accustomed to the position of aged maternal figure - especially one recognized as such by the general public at large?!!!

I'm just saying! Thanks for listening.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Writer

Dear Readers,

Occasionally people come into our lives and offer challenge and encouragement at the same time. The following post which I’m delighted to share with you is actually written by our Young Adults Pastor, Amanda Bock. Though very young, she is both wise and insightful, which will become apparent to you as you read this post from her blog, “Fragments.” (I know, I know. Another run-on sentence. I’m working on it. Smile.)


As I write this, the clock just turned from 12:59 to 1:00 am. Sleep is evading me tonight. My overactive and generally restless mind just won’t stop. Many of us have brains like this and they function a bit like toddlers: it’s best to keep them occupied with sensible things or they will inevitably bring unimaginable destruction and havoc.

Tonight, my mind is occupied with surveying the horizon for what God is doing. What is He doing in the world? In the Church? In our church? In me…?

There is one element that I know for certain: He is calling His people to a new level of depth and spiritual reality. Nearly every person I know who is “out on the edge” of the move of God is (and has been) sensing this. It has happened in waves all throughout history and I firmly believe we are standing at the surging of the next wave. God is cranking open the spirits of those who make Him their first priority. He is making room for more faith, more expectation, more growth…more sacrifice. And the Church as a whole is growing discontent (a very good thing). We are crying out for “more”.

Today, though, I realized something very important through a very practical situation…

My apartment is 600 square feet. It’s small. But it’s all I need. It’s just me here. (And the occasional group of 15 or so young adults huddled in my living room.) But, when I returned from Arizona after my grandmother passed away, I moved my TV from the living room to my bedroom because I was having trouble sleeping. I needed some “white noise” to drown out my thoughts long enough for me to nod off.

However, somehow, the rest of my activities followed and my bedroom became the “hub” of my house. The chair in my room was now my prayer chair, dinner table, phone booth and the seat of honor for my guests. And in the last two and half months, my apartment went from 600 to 100 square feet.

For the first time in 18 months, my apartment felt small. And I didn’t know why! I didn’t realize I was living in my bedroom! These past two weeks, I started asking the Lord when I would be able to move into a house. I even browsed local “For Sale” homes! I had no idea why the sudden urge to have “more”. Until today, when I became so convicted about not using all the space I have.

And then, the spiritual correlation hit home. I’ve been asking, “God, enlarge my territory.” “God, use me more!” “God show me more of You!” “God, give me more to give away!” “God…” “God…” “God…”

But, am I really using all the space I have? All the resources I have? Walking in the knowledge I already have of Him? Using all the gifts I have? To the fullest?...Or have I become so familiar with all of those (and so tired of using things like “patience” or “long-suffering” or “sacrificial love”) that I want something new for novelty sake?

God’s not interested in my amusement. He’s interested in my faithfulness and obedience. He’s watching to see what I do with what I’m given. And, to be honest, at times I can be enough of a selfish brat to behave as if I have “nothing”.

I once saw a documentary on lottery winners. Did you know that the vast majority of these people suffer immense devastation in their lives after the big win? Divorce, drug addiction, financial ruin, death. Because they didn’t know how to manage “little” before “much” was dumped into their lives.

As I stand at the edge of what God is doing, I pray that I am found faithful with “little”. I want to be a workman trusted and approved, handling even the “smallest” things with great care and integrity. Making use of every resource He gives me.

He will enlarge our territory. He will bring more. For His beloved people, He always has. He has given His Word to those who rejected it. Extended His love to those who mocked Him. Provided richly for those who squandered. The “more” of Him will come. I must get busy with the “now” before this moment has passed…

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people). Making the most of the time [buying up every opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.” Eph. 5:15-17 AMP

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thank Heaven for Puffs

Being sick really stinks, doesn't it?!

Saturday my throat started talking to me (which I thought was odd.) Sunday morning I sounded like a famous bass singer with a southern gospel group. By Monday mid-morning I was carrying around a box of tissues! Finally I gave up and came home to try and recover.

May I say to the creators of Nyquil that I appreciate the necessity of the alcohol level in their product but couldn't they have made it taste a little bit better and burn a little less?!!!!

And don't you hate how when you're sick every move requires twice the energy while yielding half the results?

There are no brilliant, creative nor otherwise post-worthy thoughts running through my congested, drug-dribbled (see, I told you) head!

So, instead of trying to write today I'm going to opt to give in to this sickness; slather my bulbous red nose with vaseline; cuddle up to my Puffs tissue box; take one more monster vitamin C pill; fall back over sideways on the couch for a little while and hopefully leave you dear readers with a smile.

Here's to quick recoveries and good-natured laughter at another's expense!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Quite Simply - A Miracle

(Warning: this is a very looooong post and will be best enjoyed with a leisurely cup of hot tea or coffee.)

Our family has been blessed to experience many "Red Sea" moments. You know, times when the impossible situation you are facing can only be remedied by divine intervention. This is a recording of one such miracle; only this one was not just for the Hawley family - it involved an entire church!

In 2007, Frank was driving an older model station wagon which we affectionately referred to as "the green hornet". Now, this car had been provided for us at a much needed moment and we were grateful. But the nursing along that it required was reaching epic proportions.

That summer Meagan came to me in the kitchen one day and said, "Mom, I think we should mention to the board that Dad really needs a newer car to drive. If they knew how bad the green hornet is getting, they would want to do something. Pastor appreciation day would be a great time." (I've spoken often of the wonderful people we serve and our leadership are indeed people of lavish care!)

"Oh goodness no, Honey!" I was surprised by Meagan's boldness. "God would have to lay that on someone's heart. It wouldn't be right for US to present such an idea."

"Well then, I'm gonna pray!" (Somehow the babies in most families aren't hampered in their thinking by conventional protocol.)

I smiled the older, wiser smile of experience and responded, "Okay, Honey. You do that."

[Insert extra information: We have had the privilege of talking with others involved in this miracle story and gleaned a basic time line from multiple perspectives.]

Fast forward several weeks to the kitchen of a family in our church. Don came down the stairs and said to his wife Sharon, "I had the funniest dream last night."

Because he seldom ever remembered dreams, Sharon was all ears.

"I dreamed that we gave the Hawleys a new vehicle."

"Wouldn't that be wonderful. But it certainly would have to be a God-thing; heaven knows we don't have such resources!" Sharon was amused then went on with breakfast preparations; dream forgotten.

But Don couldn't get the dream off his mind. So, he shared it with a couple of our board members next time they were together.

Some conversation ensued and the dream became a spark. The spark caught some Holy Spirit oxygen and became a flame. The board as a whole got excited about the possibility of doing something that big and made a decision - they would present it to the congregation and see what happened.

[Insert Info: Our congregation is not large, nor do we have any wealthy families. They are simply honest, hard-working people with very large hearts! Pastor Appreciation Day was always acknowledged - but this was on a whole new level.]

The next Sunday, our family was asked to not come into the auditorium until we were called for. Odd, but okay.

We had no idea what was going on but God was about to add kerosene to the flame. The board asked Don to share his dream and idea. Each individual was asked to prayerfully consider what they could contribute to the amount the board was hoping to raise. And suddenly the flickering flame became a raging fire of possibility!

Twice more over the next few weeks, we were asked to wait in the offices until called for. By this time we knew something was afoot but no one was volunteering any information. None of the leadership, none of our staff, not one teenager, not a child slipped even once! It was as though everyone would leave the service and simply forget what was happening.

But behind the scenes, God was orchestrating a truly incredible miracle!

We were later told that no one family gave a large offering. It was simply a pulling together of the resources of every single person in the church. People began to receive unexpected income; several pledged; a few sold things they hadn't been able to sell; and so on. But the money began to slowly be gathered

Two weeks before Pastor Appreciation Day, one of our board members spotted a potential vehicle on a lot in town. When he approached the salesman with the story of what was taking place, the salesman was amused but knew this vehicle was no where near what the church was raising.

Bill asked him to pitch it to the manager anyway - just in case. To everyone's surprise, the manager agreed to drop the price of the vehicle by $8,000 in order to match what the church now had. Several came to check out the car and it was decided that this was indeed the one they wanted!

By this time, people all over our community were hearing of the miracle that was taking place at Garden Grove Church.

One member was even approached in Wal-mart by a stranger. "I'm sorry to bother you," she said. "I couldn't help but overhear your phone conversation." (The member had been excitedly giving an update report to her sister over the phone.) "I think what you folks are doing for your pastor is just wonderful. It gives me hope about church people."

On the morning of Pastor Appreciation Day, our church was packed to the point of standing room only and the air in the auditorium was electric!

Frank preached but we had already been warned that no one would really hear what he was saying. They were all awaiting the end of the service when a special presentation would be made.

The board had asked Don to serve as spokesman. Our staff was recognized and blessed. Then we were called to the platform and presented with a lovely card containing a Wal-mart gift card for $300.00.

"You all are on the road all the time and we wanted to help with some of your gas expenses," we were told. "Oh, thank you. Thank you so much," it really was a generous gift in our thinking. Time for lunch.

Don looked out at the sea of beaming faces and said simply, "Alright Garden Grove. You know what to do."

Without a single word or whisper; no back ground music at all; the entire congregation quickly vacated the room and left us standing on the platform looking at the empty chairs!

In just a minute a signal came from the foyer and Don said, "Okay, Hawley family. Let's go."

We followed obediently and were led to the parking lot where the entire congregation was gathered. When we came through the doors, they parted to reveal a beautiful Chevy Tahoe adorned with a huge red velvet bow!

Tears were flowing, cameras were clicking, applause and shouts of praise to the Lord were heard all around.

We were standing together in a MIRACLE MOMENT!!

And truth be known, it wasn't even about the pastors or our family or any one individual. It was really about God showing His darling people what happens when everyone pulls together and believes for the impossible to become possible.

It was quite simply one of the most amazing moments of our lives! We were all in shock as the keys were handed over and we climbed in for a look at our beautiful new vehicle. This was truly beyond our wildest imaginings.

One member was videoing the proceedings and on the tape you can hear someone still sobbing once everyone had moved into the fellowship hall for lunch.

It was Meagan.

She slipped up behind me in the line and whispered through choking tears, "Mama, I prayed for a Tahoe! I asked God to give Daddy a Tahoe!!"

Ah dear readers, never underestimate the power of prayer nor the ability of God to fulfill your dreams! Even your wildest ones!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Appreciating Any and All Appreciation!

October is celebrated by many as "Minister Appreciation Month".

(It was first introduced just as Pastor Appreciation. But thankfully people began to remember that many churches need a whole team of people to lead. So now most congregations acknowledge all their associate ministers as well.)

Frank and I have already started receiving special cards and extra hugs - we serve the most amazing people! So, I thought you might enjoy an Inside Edition look at why this month of affirmation is so..........well, so appreciated! Smile.

In my Bible I have a particular passage in Psalms highlighted. "He choose David his servant....he brought him to be the shepherd of his people......and David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."

Beside those verses I've written this short prayer, "Father, make us shepherds like this."

Truth be known, nearly every pastor longs to serve their congregation as a man or woman of integrity. The vast majority don't care if their service is ever recognized. In fact, most are extremely uncomfortable with applause or accolades of any sort. We just consider it a privilege and take very seriously the responsibilities that accompany the office of "Pastor".

(Tomorrow I hope to write the story of a miracle that took place for us and our church three years ago during this celebration. So be sure to tune in then for a heaping helping of heart-warming happiness. Sorry, rabbit trail moment! Smile.)

As pastors, we are also acutely aware that this old adage is true:
You may please all of the people some of the time;
And you may please some of the people most of the time;
But you can NEVER please all of the people all of the time!

Yep, it's true - but we don't let that stand in our way of giving it the 'ol college try!! (Trying to please everyone that is.)

Consequently, every so often, you may find the shoulders sagging on a pastor or two. And that's precisely why your encouragement is needed. Your affirmation of things done right really matters more than you could ever know.

And don't succumb to the erroneous thought that your idea for affirmation is somehow insignificant! Heaven forbid!! Do you know how many masterpieces of artwork have graced my husband's office that have been created with coloring crayons?! Smile.

So here's a little nudge.

Send that card, offer a hug, make the call, bake their favorite cake (or cornbread), offer an evening of free babysitting, invite them to your home for dinner..............
(If you need other ideas, just request them in the comment section. I'd love to help you get creative.)

Your pastor is striving to do the very best job he/she can to meet your spiritual needs - take a moment to let them know it matters!

You may be surprised by how tall they are able to stand after talking with you! Smile.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Purposeful Ponderings

I absolutely LOVE mornings!

(Now for all of my "night time loving" friends, please don't stone me before I can get started. Smile.)

Morning is the time I get revived. When you slip out of bed at 5:30, there aren't many others awake. (And if they are, they're too groggy to need your attention!) I could have stayed in bed a little longer this morning but the draw of quiet, peaceful, coffee-sipping, devotion-reading, sunrise-watching, ponder time totally overpowered me.

I slipped into the living room and quickly remembered that we had extra guests. Friends from NC had stayed over while passing through. So my solitude started in the kitchen with subtle lighting and quietly prepared coffee. Smile.

Still, as the sky went from black to dark blue to pink and as I witnessed such splendor, it brought a calm to my heart. Life is so fast that we can get lost in living if we aren't careful. (I highlighted that statement because I'm pretty sure it is original! Smile.)

Yesterday was the conclusion of missions week at Garden Grove and we finished with a terrific banquet that highlighted all the missionaries we serve.

(Our missions directors did an excellent job. They pulled members from the audience, quickly "dressed" them to represent an outreach or missions family, then sent them down a catwalk while describing that ministry. Fortunately, we are a church full of hams; so the entire evening was great fun!!)

In the middle of all the laughter and great food, we were challenged to each take a moment to ponder, "Am I investing my life or simply spending it?"

We are each on this earth at this particular time in history by design. You and I are NOT accidents. (No matter how surprised our parents may have been. Smile.)

Yes I know, I started out talking about simple mornings and quickly moved to major pondering. But that's kind of where I am right now. And that kind of thinking brings focus and purpose to what could otherwise be an ordinary Monday.

Besides, which one of us can take in the powerful beauty of a sunrise (or sunset) and not be moved by its majesty and wonder?! All that loveliness just for our enjoyment. How special we must be to the Creator.

So, here's to making a difference; even on a Monday!

Friday, October 8, 2010


I firmly believe that we ALL live our lives hoping to be an influence for good in this world.

I've never met a single person who says, "Yeah, my greatest hope is to help someone else make bad choices that will cause them to live in sorrow and regret the rest of their days!" Just haven't met such a person.

But being an influence on others is a thing of responsibility that must be weighed seriously.

That truth came home to me yesterday in a very stark way. You see, there is this amazing young woman by the name of Erika Rivera Hendricks who serves as children's pastor for a growing church in MD. (Erika and I first met five years ago while I was leading a Bible study at SEU.) Erika married Louis; moved away; had a baby; became this incredible leader; and now we do our best to keep in touch sporadically as long-distance people tend to do.

Yesterday I discovered that Erika (also a blogger) had posted her Dream Team of Influencers - Part I. And right there, after John Maxwell, Joyce Meyer and Eileen Hunter, Erika had put: Frank and Sheri Hawley. (Kimora Lee Simmons was next and having no idea who that was, I had to Google her. Smile.)

"They are a couple my husband and I both look up to,"
said Mrs. Hendricks.

Normally, a statement like that would elicit a humble sigh and lots of warm fuzzies. But when I read it yesterday it felt more like an indictment - maybe even a rebuke.

You see, the stresses of everyday life had been wearing on the right reverends Frank and Sheri Hawley to the point that everything had finally "hit the fan!" At that moment, we weren't good influencers; we weren't people to emulate; we weren't even a couple you'd want to BE around!! (There you have it, dear readers. We are indeed very much human. Smile.)

And as I read Erika's generous words, my heart was pierced with the importance of living everyday hoping that we will be able to look around and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

Of course, the real truth is this: those are perhaps the best moments for saying follow me. If we never let people close enough to know we struggle too then they have no way to connect with us.

Life is tough! I want to see someone who has walked up to the fray, put on the spiritual armor (or located it again after the enemy has knocked it off), and successfully battled through, arriving safely on the opposite side of conflict.

If your life is perfect, I'm happy for you but please don't try to tell me how to live. I want to observe people who have navigated difficulty and have come out of it choosing to smile, love, embrace joy and not bitterness.

That, to me, is the best kind of influence.

As you've probably already guessed, today I will take the challenge of Erika's words and work on making things right in my own household. And while we probably won't be at a place where "marital bliss perpetually reigns," by evening; hopefully we will be sitting together on the love seat again, knowing that we wouldn't want to be working at this marriage thing with anyone else.

Blessings as you go out to influence your world!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Think About It

Some days, I really envy men!

They have such an incredible ability to "compartmentalize" things. Schedules, difficulties, relationships, deadlines, work, family............everything has its own little box which stays neat and tidy with the door closed.

Men are absolute geniuses at keeping these various doors closed until time (and inclination) dictate that the issue be addressed. After the addressing is completed (for this particular time period), men exit the room, close the door and "Viola!" For all practical purposes, that issue no longer exists.

I get it! That's how God designed them!! That's how they function best!!! Yes, I get it - I just wish I could do that TOO.

(Can you tell I woke up very early this morning and have been wrestling in my mind with multiple issues that absolutely refuse to be coaxed, cajoled, shoved, pushed or otherwise persuaded back into "the room" so I can close the door?! Sigh.)

I suppose that's why there are so many scripture passages and so many great sermons on the topic of "Controlling Our Thoughts."
  • "Think on these things......."
  • "Let not your heart be troubled......."
  • "I will praise the Lord at all times......."
  • "You will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are focused on You......."
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances....."
  • "God knows our thoughts......."

Okay, sooooooo. I feel quite a bit better after listing just those few scriptures.

Maybe those are the tools God has highlighted with women (since he created us to experience things more on the feeling side of life) for the purpose of corralling and containing issues that would otherwise burst out at inopportune moments.

(Yes, that thought most certainly did require a run-on sentence. Smile.)

Hope your day is blessed with timely thoughts and peaceful ponderings!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Divine Appointment

Do you believe in "Divine Appointments"?

I do. I definitely do! You will too after this story.

(Rather long post. But definitely worth the read.)

Right now I am attending a wonderful conference for women in ministry. This is kind of like taking continuing education courses for ministers. We are in the big city of Dallas, TX with so many fabulous things to record - but those will have to wait until later.

Because this is a conference designed specifically for women ministers, the organizers have us sitting at round tables for the purpose of encouraging conversation and connection. (Not difficult for a bunch of women. Smile.)

Each lady chooses her own seat but then stays with that group for the remainder of the conference. A facilitator at each table helps direct discussion, etc. Women from all over the country are here and the age range is broad.

I met a dear friend of many years here and as we headed down to the meeting area yesterday, I heard someone yell, "Sheri! Hi!!" Robin from PA was stepping out of an elevator; we hadn't seen each other in about three years. Great reunion moment in the lobby. Met her travel buddies; introduced her to Brenda. Off we go.

When we arrived in the meeting room, Brenda and I wandered to the right and began looking for a seat near the middle-front. (You know, close enough to see the speaker; not close enough to be seen. Smile.)

Suddenly, a beautiful lady with a smile like sunshine reached out, tapped my arm and said, "Hey, sit with me." She looked vaguely familiar but you just never know at these things if you've actually met someone before or not.

Brenda and I sat down with her and she reminded me where we had met. Several years ago, when I came to speak for Sandra at the South TX Women's Retreat, this was the lady who had graciously taken me to shop on Harwin St. in Houston. (Jewelry Mecca! Another post.)

"Oh, yes of course. Now I remember you, Sharon. We spent a GREAT afternoon together!" Catch up. (Sharon and her husband now pastor in KY.) Reminisce. Reminisce. Discuss our mutual sorrow over Sandra's death. (Sorrow shared is divided indeed.)

Just about that time, I look up to spot Robin from PA and her two friends.

"Hey, Robin. You guys sit with us."

So now we are six. Debbie from Houston joins us. More hugs. More reminiscing.

The service is about to start and Melanie (also from TX) dashes over to grab the final seat. The first speaker comes to the podium and we're off and running. Writing notes. Nodding at one another with knowing looks. Drinking in new information. Accepting the challenge put before us.

Then came the first discussion time. We went around the table and briefly introduced ourselves. Telling of our varied areas of ministry; what we hope to gain from the conference.

And that's when it happened.

It just so happens that "Melanie" has just accepted the position of Women's Director for South TX - the position left open when Sandra graduated to Heaven. And "Robin" had recently been named as a sectional director in PA - the position left open by Gloria who was killed in the automobile accident with Sandra.

(Tears spring to my eyes as I write this.)

Out of five hundred women; more than fifty tables; God orchestrated the seating of those two women at this one table.

That was no accident, dear readers. That was a DIVINE APPOINTMENT!

It was as if we could all sense Sandra and Gloria peeking over the edge of Heaven, giggling with delight at the ways of our Heavenly Father. We all sat back with tears in our eyes; marveling at His ability to direct us. And knowing we were in a special moment.

He is still in the business of ordering footsteps! Never doubt that!!

Multiple speakers have said several times during this conference, "Watch for the surprises of God."

You better KNOW our eyes are wide open.