Monday, November 29, 2010

Tougher Than I Expected

I promise you that there will be more funny stories to come! Humor will always be part of my life and therefore, part of this blog.

But December 2nd will mark two years for us since Mom changed her address permanently. Naturally, my heart has trouble thinking of anything else right now.

Warning: today's post will be lengthy (about six minutes) and I needed a hankie while writing!

We had moved Mom to a nursing facility closer to Dad over Thanksgiving that year and thought we were settling in for a six to nine month season. Thankfully, I took time to speak to the therapist who had been working with her.

She pulled me into an office, closed the door and asked if she could speak to me as a daughter, not a nurse. I braced myself but nothing could have prepared me for what she said.

"I've worked with your mom a lot these three weeks. Her condition is deteriorating rapidly and I don't honestly think you have months. You should probably prepare yourself for her to be gone before Christmas."

That was on Friday - Mom died the following Tuesday. We will always be thankful that God put that amazing therapist in our path. Otherwise, there would have been no warning at all!

The following is the email I sent to friends and family telling about Mom's last hours here:

It's hard to believe that just two short weeks ago we received the call from Dad saying Mom "had a bad night" and suddenly I was driving as fast as possible to north FL.

For all the rest of my life I will be thankful that Frank pushed me out of the office. "Don't wait, Sheri. Go now!"

I talked with Dad by cell phone while traveling and we thought she had just run into a problem with her sugar. Some insulin and better communication with food services would surely straighten things out.

She was able to eat some lunch and Dad said that she acknowledged a young pastor (one they had mentored) who visited around 4:00. So I fully expected her to rebound.

I arrived at the nursing facility just after 6:00 and found that she wasn't responding. As I stepped to the bedside and started stroking her hair, I realized that things were coming to a close. Quickly.

I wish I could tell you that I was brave and strong. But tears dripped from my eyes as I leaned over her sweet face. "Mom, please hold on until Vonnie (my sister) can get here. She's on her way. We'll all celebrate together then, Mom. Please try to hold on just a little while." It was important that she know we wouldn't try to keep her here if the Lord was calling.

The Thompson's (District Pastors) "just happened" to stop by around 6:45. After some time, Sis. Thompson asked if it would be okay to sing for Mom. She started with "Beulah Land" and as we all sang, Mom's breathing changed ever so slightly.

I must admit to selfishly thinking, "Oh, please don't sing that. Mom will hear Heaven and she'll want to go right now."

"Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" was next and as we sang the second verse of "Great is Thy Faithfulness", Mom just stopped breathing.

No struggle. Not even a crease in her brow. She just quit breathing here and started breathing Heaven's air.

It was truly a sacred moment that I'll never forget. She was there for my first breath and I was privileged to be there for her last.

Even as she was leaving this world, Mom was used of the Lord to minister to someone else. The Hospice nurse, chosen "randomly" to attend Mom, had a troubled teenage son. He was going the next day to some rehabilitation program called Teen Challenge and she was scared about what he would experience. (Mom and Dad worked two years for Teen Challenge and supported the ministry over forty years.)

Dad was able to spend the afternoon explaining the program and assuring this mother that her son was going to the best help available.

After Mom passed, the nurse slipped over to Sis. Thompson and said, "That was the most beautiful death I've ever experienced. You could tell that the Lord Himself came in to take her home."

Her memorial service was perfect, thanks to the congregation of Carmel Assembly of God. Pastor Tommy and his team cared for us, watching over every detail. Frank and Chris both spoke. The girls sang "My Tribute/How Great Thou Art", John played piano and Frank sang "It Is Well". Rev. Thompson concluded the service with a message of hope.

Our theology with this final story is a bit questionable - but bear with me. If you knew Mom, you'll fully agree with our thinking.

The burial site Dad had chosen was in a rural area right next to a large pasture. As we feared, the curious cows in that pasture lined the fence to check out all the "visitors".

They observed in perfect silence until the pastor said his final, "Amen." At that exact moment, one cow came into agreement with a LOUD "Mooooooooo!"

We all looked up, startled, and began to laugh just the way Mom would have!

That evening our family decided that Mom had probably convinced some poor, unsuspecting angel to kick the cow at just the right moment. The kids wondered if God has a "time out" corner in Heaven.

Yep, I told you the theology is questionable. But that would be just like my little mama who loved laughter so much. Her philosophy was that laughter trumps tears every time.

And so it does, Mom. So it does.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A (Real) Family Portrait

Family is a messy experiment - even the BEST ones!

I know that you may have expected a lovely little treatise on the joy and wonder of celebrating the picturesque "Norman Rockwell" Thanksgiving. But our family is composed of PEOPLE. And we are people that Norman Rockwell never met! Smile.

Holidays (for us) have never looked quite like the pictures that he and Currier & Ives made popular in the American mindset. And our gatherings as adults have never seemed to really measure up to the memories we've immortalized from our own childhoods.

I see you smiling - you've attended that same family celebration. The celebration that finds you getting back in the car with your spouse and saying, "We are the only normal ones in this whole bunch!" Smile.

Yep, that's family!

I once saw a plaque with the simple statement, "Friends are our chosen family." But I strongly disagree with that premise.

Please understand, Frank and I believe in the power and importance of friendships. We have invested heavily in developing lifetime friends that have stood by us through thick and thin. But in all of those relationships, there is the possibility of "stepping back" periodically; giving one another space.

With family - there's no stepping back. You gotta deal with your mess! (That's a southern phrase and I'm not real sure how to translate it to other dialects. But I think you get my drift.)

And honestly, I think this is part of God's design for us all.

Right now we are staying with our brother Terry and his wife Pam. Our family invaded their NC home Tuesday night and they are stuck with us until Friday.

Their girls (Ashley and Kayley) have been displaced, exchanging their bedrooms for a couch and a pallet. We've seriously interrupted their schedule, dirtied their linens, crowded their driveway, overrun their entertainment plans.

But that's family at Thanksgiving!

"Where ARE you going with this, Sheri?"

I believe that God created family to help us become like His son.

See, none of my natural tendencies are like Jesus. I can be quite selfish and often act on that selfishness. But walking with family helps me recognize this problem and forces me to deal with it.

When selfishness dies, a giving heart grows!

I'm just addressing generalities in an attempt to say, "It's okay if your family isn't perfect - neither is mine. But we're all working on loving one another anyway!!"

Peter gave me great encouragement regarding this. He says -
  • live in harmony
  • be sympathetic
  • love as brothers
  • be compassionate and humble so that-
You may inherit blessing!!
(I Peter 3:8-9)

Now there's something to be giving thanks about! Smile.

Hopefully, you'll get a moment to quiet your own heart and ponder this truth today. And in the midst of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, boisterous nieces and nephews you'll be encouraged to know, "We may not look like Norman Rockwell's clan. But we all come from the same DNA thread and we're loving each other in spite of ourselves. And that's REAL!"

Blessings to you and yours on this Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

True Story

Thanksgiving is DEFINITELY in the air - I'm sure that I smell turkey already!

(If you've ever lived near a poultry farm, that statement brings to mind a w-h-o-l-e different smell, I know! One poultry farmer told us that he stepped out on his porch every morning, breathed in a deep whiff of the "fowl" air - pun totally intended - and said to himself, "Smell that money!!" Smile.)

I'm talking about the fragrance of an oven-roasted, perfectly seasoned, beautifully browned bird sitting on a holiday platter surrounded by green celery leaves and cranberries or crab apples......... Yummmmm!

Tomorrow we leave for North Carolina; we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with Frank's family. Mom Hawley is the quintessential southern belle - in every sense of the phrase - and she makes a turkey that is unbelievable! (No pressure, Mom!)

Today, however, I must tell you a funny story from this weekend.

Joyce Meyer was in Tampa and a few of us pooled our resources in order to stay there and attend the conference. It was truly an amazing three days packed with teaching that I needed to hear. She spoke on fear, guilt, worry and insecurity. Powerful Instruction!!

If you've never attended one of her conferences, you should make the effort to do so. You'll definitely come away encouraged.

This particular conference was held in the St. Pete Times Forum which is actually an ice hockey arena. Let me tell you, hot flashes were NOT a problem there. After the first service, we were packing blankets along with our Bibles and notebooks!

Because I'm not an avid sports fan, I was unprepared for just how CLOSE those seats are. Joyce Meyer's conference was free but I guess that when hockey fans are willing to pay big money to sit in each of those seats, the designers feel it best to really pack 'em in there.

Even the people sitting behind and in front of us were only inches away. Do you get the feeling I'm telling you it was crowded?

Well, shortly before the service began, I became aware that the woman sitting behind me was having serious trouble with her foot.

"How did you know that, Sheri?"

I know it because her sizable extremity was resting on the back of my arena chair!!

I couldn't glance over my right shoulder without being accosted with the sight of her rather long toe nails! Now, I've already confessed that I'm not a regular attender of sporting events. But I'm pretty sure that utilizing your neighbor's chair as a foot rest is bad sportsmanship not to mention poor etiquette! Smile.

Well, I wish I could tell you that this affront was the worst of the situation - but oh no! There's more!!

It seems that people in such settings talk more loudly because of the arena noise and tend to forget that those sitting nearby are forced to become part of the conversation whether they wish to or NOT!

This poor woman has apparently suffered greatly because of her Sasquatch-like condition! Finding shoes that fit is hard enough but finding ones that also offer support is apparently impossible.

(At this point in her story, she engaged in vigorous massaging of said foot which occasionally caused her to brush the back of my hair with her hand!)

I tried shifting in my seat to draw her attention to the fact that she was not in the arena ALONE!!

Unfortunately, she mistook my movement to indicate that perhaps I was interested in her situation and would appreciate further information. So she raised her voice and launched into a detailed description of the various orthotics she has attempted to use in her quest for podiatry comfort! (Can you say, enough already?! Smile.)

I now know more about Dr. Scholl's and his associates than any consumer ever should!!

"Please, tell us that's all," you may be saying!

Oh, no. There's more!

The crowning moment came when mid-massage the lady realized that it had been a while since her last pedicure.............

She proceeded to clean her toe nail while holding it mere inches from my head!!

Well, that was it for me! I jumped up and only barely managed to avoid the reflex action of brushing off the back of my hair!! EEEWWWWWW!!!

(You can not make up stuff this funny - no matter how hard you may try! Smile.)

My conference buddies found the whole situation hilarious and offered no sympathy at all!

(Just how many exclamation points can one use in a single blog post?!!! Smile.)

Fortunately for me, the woman became engrossed in the service and finally suspended all foot-focused activity!

Other than that - it was a great evening! LOL

Hope my experience has brought you a smile; and perhaps even some important orthodic information!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Is it this difficult for any other families to plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas?!

Frank and I have always lived far away from family. When we first married we were ten hours from mine and six from his. Yes, this was tough but it was part of God's plan forcing he and I to become a family of our own. (That's why we are so careful to give Joy and John space; tightrope walking for sure. Smile.)

Holidays then were pretty simple. Thanksgiving with the Hawleys, Christmas with the Burkes. Next year, switch. When my sister married, her family set up the same pattern so we were always able to be together for at least one of the two.

Now? Not so simple!

Frank and I have added relatives in New York (the Schrecks.) All of our children now have their own job schedules that must be considered. Vonnie and Chris' children are growing up. Travel isn't as easy as it used to be when you we just threw kids in the back of the car, gave them snacks, a new coloring book, their pillow and blanket, and the promise that when they woke up we'd be with Mema and Papaw!

While Frank and I and the girls traveled as evangelists, we tried to collect traditions/ideas that helped other families navigate the difficult waters of "Long Distance Family-ing".

I'd love to hear your ideas and solutions on this topic! I fully believe that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors! Smile.

Also, a big thank you to each of you who have so graciously commented on facebook or here concerning my recent posts about Mom. "Joy shared is multiplied. Sorrow shared is divided." Totally true!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Memory Day

I had mentioned that I would probably feel compelled to share some thoughts with you about the season of my life just before losing Mom. This is one of those days.

Mom had been sick for twelve years with multiple myloma and there had been many rough patches through those years trying to adjust her treatment meds. But we were totally unprepared two years ago when Mom suddenly became confused and somewhat incoherent.

We got her checked in to the hospital in Pensacola for observation and were given a diagnosis of 6-9 months. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was wrong. Mom passed away four short weeks later! Shock I can't describe.

The following is part of an email I sent out to family and friends (Nov., 2008) just after receiving confirmation that she had four inoperable brain tumors. While this was a devastating time, as you can imagine, there was still humor to be found:

Dad was released from the hospital last Wednesday the 12th and decided to just stay in Mom's room sleeping on a cot. I flew back to Pensacola on Saturday morning and had a precious time with Mom by myself while Dad and my brother went to a church service Sunday.

The Lord gave me two scriptures in Isaiah 42 that assured me He is fully aware of Mom and her needs. I spent the week praying over her - "This is my servant, my anointed one" and "I will make the rough places smooth before her. I will not forsake her."

Every time that I would bend close to Mom and read these two verses, she would nod and smile and even give an "Amen" or an "um hmmmmm." Her ability to communicate is diminishing. It's so hard to have my articulate, wordsmith mother reduced to "Uh Huh" (yes) and "Un uh" (no).

Moving her from the hospital to the rehab center was much harder than we had anticipated. Although we did our best to explain the move to Mom, it was apparent from the look in her eyes that she was frightened and didn't fully understand.

Dad wept openly because he realized that sleeping in her room on the cot was the last evening they would spend together. And although the EMS workers tried to be empathetic, no one ever treats your mom the way you would.

Of course, Mom's gift to us has always been humor and right in the middle of all this we experienced a funny story. I called last night to speak to Mom and a nurse graciously ran to her room to hold the phone to Mom's ear.

We "talked" briefly, I prayed, then said good-bye rather loudly so the nurse would know I was finished. But I could still hear Mom breathing.

"Mom, you're still there aren't you?"
"Uh Huh."
"The nurse doesn't know we're finished, does she?"
"Un Uh."
"You're laughing at her, aren't you?!"
"Uh Huh!!" (Which was said with such energy that I knew Mom really WAS laughing in her heart.)

God proves His faithfulness. He made the rough places smooth for her. May the same be true for you today, dear reader!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Chance


This morning it is too cool in Florida for me to sit outside on my shaded patio! So, I've opted to open the sliding glass door in the dining room and enjoy the refreshing breezes from a more sheltered spot.

But while I was outside, assessing the possibility of being on the the patio, I discovered a kiss from heaven. I've kept a beautiful Christmas cactus that was sent to us for Mom's service by Helen. It has flourished incredibly, even under my dubious care.

Months ago, an incredible wind-burst knocked it off the table I've had it on all this time. The main plant was unharmed but a small piece had broken off. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away; so I placed it in water hoping for...........well, I don't really know for what.

The pitiful piece of cactus which was really quite unattractive, "graced" my kitchen counter for weeks. I wish I had a dime for every time I considered throwing it out. Smile.

After some time, I noticed that the piece broken from the Christmas cactus had sprouted roots. Soooo I took a chance and planted it. This time I didn't expect anything!

Sticking the piece in soil was simply a delay tactic - Frank handles the tossing of all non-growing, brownish dead plants around our place. Throwing it away would become his job and I would be absolved.

But much to our surprise, it continued to stay green and actually seemed to grow a little over the summer.

This morning when I went out to check on our plants and flowers, a breath caught in my throat. That little piece of worthless cactus is doing its best to produce flowers!

In fact, it appears that it will beat the main cactus in the race of heralding this Christmas season FIRST with the gorgeous red blossoms unique to these plants. (If you're unfamiliar with this type of plant, please google it. Really quite fabulous!)

What should have gone in the trash a long time ago, will now add beauty to our lives because we took a moment and gave it a chance!

Hmmmmmmm! Any broken pieces or people around you today? Maybe we should all take a moment in the coming rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas to give someone another chance. Who knows what beauty they will bring to our lives one day!

Just a thought!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Invisible Evidence

Most readers for Embrace the Grace know that although I am an ordained minister, I seldom ever use this venue for "sermonesque" writing. However............... What I read this morning gave me such encouragement that I couldn't possibly keep it just for myself!

For personal devotions I like to use assigned reading like a One Year Bible or the Chronological Bible. That way when I happen to read a timely scripture that applies to my situation right now, I know it's from the Lord and not a message I've fabricated. Anyway........

This morning I read: "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." And my first response was - "Yeah, I know. And I'm trying, Lord. I'm really trying!" (Thank you for not being shocked nor appalled by this confession of faithlessness. Smile.)

Out of habit I read on through Hebrews 11. And slowly I began to be aware of how many times "sight" and "visible" and "looking" and "saw" and other such words are used in those few short verses.

That's when I thought of all those crime scene shows that are so popular now. ("What?! Where is she going?" you ask. Stick with me, this is good stuff!) I can't watch those shows because they're just too realistic for me. But Frank and the girls tell me about different episodes all the time.

It seems that a crime takes place and this team swoops in to investigate and you (the viewer) are carried along vicariously with them over the next hour as they solve the seemingly unsolvable mystery of how the crime was committed. (Long sentence - short synopsis. Smile.)

I've been told that the best shows are those with star characters who have an uncanny ability to spot the evidence that everyone else overlooks. (Personally, I've always thought Colombo was the very best at this - right by himself and without a team. I couldn't understand why Peter Falk was never given a series. But what do I know, I'm 52?!)

So, the key point with these shows is that success comes to those with eyes to see evidence that is invisible to everyone else! (Are you starting to s.e.e. the sermon here?)

The answer is there right from the start of the show, they just haven't seen it yet.

So actually, the format for C.S.I. comes straight from the life of Abraham: he started walking toward his "answer" even though at the start, he couldn't begin to see where he was going nor how he would get there.

I took a moment to list major categories of miracles we've experienced in our own family. Miracles involving everything from health to clothing to vehicles to housing! The list was extensive!! And with each miracle that I recounted, my faith grew some more regarding the issue that currently seems impossible in my life.

While writing to you today, I see absolutely no clues indicating a way for this miracle to take place - the solution is currently invisible. But God knew that I needed to choose to look with eyes that see. I need to review evidence that points to the truth - He is faithful; I can trust Him!

My miracle answer is here; I just haven't seen it yet.

(This is where a lot of church people would be tempted to shout out, "AMEN!" Smile.)

I'd love to hear about your "Miracle List" once you've compiled it. Hope you have a wonderful day looking around with eyes that see the evidence that is invisible to everyone else!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Musical Memory

Frank and I were treated to a marvelous gift on Saturday evening. A young man in our church gave us tickets for an event called "Symphony and Sunset" held at Bok Tower and Gardens in Lake Wales.

Hundreds of people annually converge on this beautiful garden spot bringing all their favorite picnic items. They then enjoy a fabulous concert presentation by the Orlando Symphony with the added bonus of music performed on the Bok Tower Carillon. An absolutely resplendent event!

This was our first time to attend and I hope it won't be our last. We packed a lovely dinner in our special Longaberger picnic basket. (A gift from the choir I directed in Smithfield, NC.) Frank wisely packed a blanket and some sweatshirts because he was a boy scout and thinks of these things. He even made sure we had a thermos of hot tea and each of our favorite china cups! (Collective "Awwww!")

Because it is so cold in FL right now (not that anyone is complaining, mind you) it ended up being a great night to pull our lawn chairs close together, snuggle under the blanket, hold hands and listen to fabulous music! (Maybe I should have saved the collective awwww for here.) (And what's up with all these parenthesis side notes today?! Smile.)

However, the concert wasn't my main thought for today. Actually, several pieces of music performed Saturday night were ones Mom had introduced to me - she loved all sorts of music. When they played the theme from "Love Story," it brought back a very funny memory.

While I was growing up, our particular church group frowned on attending movies of any sort. This was kind of rough on Mom because her childhood had revolved around attending the new releases every single Saturday in downtown Pensacola. She knew all the great actors, actresses, their spouses, their children, their top roles.........

She always cooperated with the unwritten policy but once in a while it caused a real struggle in her heart - like this time:

When the highly acclaimed movie "Love Story" finally was to be shown on television, Mom was terribly disappointed to discover that it would be shown on a Sunday night not on Friday night. We always had church on Sunday night. So even though she had waited patiently for it to come to TV, she was still going to miss it because what pastor's wife can skip service just to watch television?! AGGGHHHH!!!

I was fourteen at the time and pleaded with her to let me stay home just this once so I could experience the wonder of learning why "love means never having to say you're sorry!" (For all you young readers, that's a quote from the movie.)

Finally, Mom looked at me with her big brown eyes that knew all things, "Are you telling me you don't feel well?"

"No Ma'am. I feel okay. I just want to stay home and watch the movie, Puh-leeeeaaase!"

She leveled her gaze at me again and slowly repeated, "Sheri, aren't you telling me you need to stay home because you don't feel so good?!!!"

Finally the light dawned!

"Oh! Oh, yeah! Yes ma'am, I would like to stay home because I don't feel so good." Wink. Wink.

Mom continued, "Alright. I'll let you stay home this time. And I hope you don't get scared here. All alone! By yourself! With no one around; at all!!"

My eyes grew wide. "Mom, if I did get scared what would you want me to do?"

She pondered this for all of a split second. "I suppose that if you really got frightened, you could always call the church and ask the usher to come get me. Then I would have to come home to see about you."

All my family left for church and I was home alone. Surprisingly, at about the same time the ushers would have gone to the church office to count offering, our dogs started barking at some noise. I felt it best to call and ask that Mom come home right away. Which she did.

You know the rest.

Mom and I snuggled on the old couch in the den, ate popcorn, giggled about our "wicked scheme" and prayed fervently that service would run long so we wouldn't miss the end of the movie! (Was that a conflict of interest?! Smile.)

And even at fourteen I knew the really big deal wasn't the movie, it was the memory Mom and I were making that mattered. (I seldom ever hear that theme music without thinking back to that night and smiling to myself.)

Just as the final credits began to roll, we saw headlights turning in the drive. I dashed to my bedroom to avoid any questions; Mom flipped off the TV and headed to the kitchen to make a sandwich for Dad. Food was always a great distraction.

Yep, that was my mama. I told you she was a wild one! Smile.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pet Peeve - Powerful Promise

Don't you just hate taking the time to clean off a counter or dresser only to turn around and discover that someone used your newly cleaned-off area for depositing their keys and wallet or their computer bag or (insult to injury) their dirty socks?!!! (Those would be on the dresser of course.)

Yeah, it's one of my pet peeves. My entire family could complete this sentence, "I did NOT clear this off just for you to clutter it again!" (Usually said with copious amounts of exaggerated sighing and occasionally even some spitting. Smile.)

We heard a speaker last night say that living with clutter will take two years off your life. No joke. Of course, he also said that being married adds nine years and being a woman adds ten! Mark one up for married women.

So why a tirade on clean counters this morning?

Because while I was clearing my dresser yesterday, Ah-gain; the Lord took that moment to whisper a truth to me.

Many of us work diligently to clear spiritual clutter from our lives: unforgiveness, selfishness, bitterness,........... We step back from the place of prayer and sigh contentedly, "Ah, all clear. Thank you, Lord. This feels wonderful!"

Then before we know it, we discover that wonderfully clear spot has been filled ah-gain! Someone hurts our feelings, we get overlooked, a wound is reopened, a disappointment parks on the open place in our heart. We've all experienced it.

In our lives, we can't just clear that spot - we have to intentionally replace the clutter with something better.

I love the story of Obed (Old Testament, obviously). King David needed a temporary storage place for the Ark of the Covenant. Obed and his family made room and the Ark was dropped off at their home. (Side note: the Ark always represented the Presence of God.) They cleared a place in their tiny home for this huge "box".

The result? Blessings started pouring out on their entire family! They had intentionally cleared room for God in their lives. And He filled that place with His Presence. Object lesson, extraordinaire!

Okay, I get the message. I'm cleaning some spiritual clutter today and making room for His Presence. This powerful promise is too perfect to miss!

Just a little something for you and I to ponder this weekend as we stand guard over our clean counters and dressers! Smile.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Posts

Today will actually have two posts in one. Two topics, that is.

Topic One: Anticipation

I woke up yesterday with an unusually heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. (Rest assured, this is not a normal state of being on Mondays. I don't care how many sunrises one may enjoy. Smile.)

Around lunch time, a friend dropped by our offices with a most precious presentation: a piece of jewelry and an intricate silver box. She explained that the two items had been passed to her from her grandmother and her great-grandmother and that now she wanted to give them to us!

Just exactly how does one merit such a lavish display of love?

Frank and I were completely overwhelmed! Trinkets and treasures are great but nothing compares to a gift that has sentimental value. Our tears (shed after the friend left) were the only way we could process this "Gift of the Magi".

I thought perhaps her visit was the reason for my feeling of anticipation. But, no. There was more to come.

You see, another friend of ours has been going through an especially horrendous time of difficulty. She has worked extremely hard keeping: her faith alive; her outlook positive; her family together....... In fact, I told one person that this lady has been moving a mountain one teaspoonful at a time! And that's the truth.

She recently shared with me that no matter how she worked (and she has been working) she just couldn't make ends meet. Her budget showed a definite shortfall occurring every month. We began to pray for a miracle.

On Sunday, I found out about something that could change her situation to not only make ends meet - they would occasionally overlap! It wasn't possible for us to get together then because (you guessed it) she was working. So I had to wait almost all day for her to come by the office and hear our idea.

The closer time got to our appointment, the more excited I became. This was going to be an answer to prayer and I could hardly wait to see her face. At one point I just had to do a quiet little squeal and tap my feet under my desk.

It was at that moment I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, "Imagine how excited I get knowing blessings are just around the corner for each of my children!"

Here we are (His children) plodding along, able to see only the circumstances; often overwhelmed with the difficulty itself. And the whole time God is saying, "I know the plans I have for you. Don't grow weary of doing the right thing! Reward is coming!! Look up! I have this under control!!!"

Can you see me smiling down here in central FL?!

Needless to say, when my friend came by and I shared the idea with her, she was ecstatic! It was a truly resplendent moment!!

Now, I said to you that this is a two-topic post. So....

Topic Two: Journey

Today marks twenty-three months since my precious mom went to Heaven. In many ways it seems like twenty-three days. And I find myself concerned because typically people move away from marking things by months after the two year period.

But the truth is, I think of Mom every day. And the loss is still very tangible; I just don't voice it as often. Her vacancy will never be filled. Just......never. And tears still come pretty easily. I don't want to stop marking her passing. Kind of vulnerable here.

Yet, I also know that time travels on and I have no choice but to keep up with the journey. God orders our footsteps for several reasons. (Sad smile.)

So if you dear readers will indulge me, I'll probably include a few mentions of her going-home time this month. Believe it or not, a few of the stories will actually be pretty funny. Mom and I shared the same warped sense of humor! Besides, she would thoroughly enjoy knowing that her name is recurring on the World Wide Web.

Hope your journey is including some joyful anticipation!