Friday, December 23, 2011

Accommodating and Accomplishing

December 25, 2011 brings a 750 mile road trip - after church.

Christmas Day for the Hawley/Schreck/Smith family was Thursday.

"Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house lay the presents unwrapped from my children and spouse......."

Meagan and Nathan flew to NC Friday. John, Joy and Spencer leave for NY on Monday. Frank, Kristin and I will hit Charlotte and Dunn next week.

Because we're blessed to have all our little chickens and their families within spitting distance, we share with glad hearts on every holiday possible.

We spent many years preparing ourselves for the possibility of everyone being spread hither and yon. So to only have to say "Farewell" a few days at a time is truly splendiferous!

We refer to this season of life as "Frosting Time." Having them all around is like frosting to the marvelous gifts God has already given us as a family. And we are thankful!

But even with all this marvelous-ness, there are struggles to overcome and there is snakey water to navigate. Allow me to explain.

Christmas is such an important celebration for us. Probably a few too many traditions and special moments that need to be repeated every single year - without fail.

We're also trying to blend in traditions that are important to John and Nathan too.

Now in order to accomplish all that celebrating and merry-making and tradition honoring, we have to co-ordinate the work schedules of seven adults, the sleep schedule of one amazing grand, the church schedule, travel plans, additional parties, airport runs..................

The opportunity for chaos to reign is unbelievable!

And yet somehow, by the grace of God, we had a proposed plan ready to put into place by the first of December.

It was decided that everyone would come to our house and spend the night on Wednesday for the Christmas Eve traditions. Then we would get up on Thursday morning and treat it just like Christmas Day!

That was the proposed plan.

Oh, wait. We have church on Wednesday night. No problem, we'll just start after church.

Things really started snarling when complimentary tickets for a professional basketball game became available to some. Once in a lifetime opportunity, right? But it just happened to be on (for us) Christmas Eve!

I can hear the lilting English voice on my GPS, "Recalculating!"

Ummmm, okay. No big deal. We have adult children, I'm willing to accommodate their needs/desires. It's Christmas! You should go to the game.

We'll just stay up really late to mark "Christmas Eve" and start a little later on "Christmas Morning." (Even though I'm usually comatose by 9:30 pm; caffeine was meant for times like this!)

Then I got word that the revelers would need to leave our house around 1 or 2 pm in order to finish laundry, clean house and be ready for their flights.

Ummm, what about dinner? How are we supposed to squeeze everything into just four hours? Is it even possible to do Christmas Day on fast forward? Doesn't that defeat the purpose?


No problem, Mom! We'll just throw something on the grill and have a little dinner at John and Joy's while everyone keeps doing laundry and packing. It'll be just fine!


No Ham? No china? No candles? No lingering? No games?

Who raised these children?!!

My Mama-mind immediately pictured the worst scenario:
  • Christmas Story read at top speed.
  • Gifts thrown to recipients.
  • Wrapping paper ripped off and tossed on the floor.
  • "Thanks, Mom and Dad!"
  • "All right, load it up. See you later!"


My accommodation capabilities could not stretch that far!

Fortunately, Frank got to me before I blew a fuse.

After hearing me describe my vision of the worst possibilities, he calmly replied, "That's not what they have in mind, Sheri. Just let Kristin explain what they've discussed. Then we'll work out the details."

Husbands are a gift from God!

"Christmas 2011" did not end up being what I would have scripted. But it was wonderful all the same.

Mostly it was wonderful because God graciously helped me release "Sheri's Script" and embrace what everyone else wanted. A true Christmas Miracle!

And in the middle of all that releasing and recalculating?

We still had a lovely Christmas dinner complete with ham, the trimmings, china and candlelight. It was just at John and Joy's table instead of mine.

Games were played. But they involved a Kinnect instead of a board or cards.

And we lingered much longer than I would have ever guessed.

My accommodating ability now has new boundaries. The needs of my adult children were met without any guilt or condemnation attached. And remarkably, many of my own hopes were fulfilled. A memorable Christmas was had by all.

Mission Accomplished!

If I were to extend one Christmas wish to each of you, dear readers it would be this: "May you be flexible enough this blessed season to not be bent out of shape!"

"And I heard her exclaim 'ere she drove out of sight, Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Male Sickness Cycle

Frank had out-patient surgery on Monday.

Nothing major, thankfully. But still, the dread of all the unknown - needles; probing; exposing; anesthetizing; cutting; stitching. You know, all that goes with what used to be a week in the hospital and is now considered "out patient" surgery.

I relived my appreciation for all people medically inclined on Monday. The Lakeland Regional Diagnostic and Surgical Center employs people who understand an important basic principle. While this is where they comfortably work and do life every single day - it is one SCARY place for the rest of us!

I was careful to express my appreciation to as many of the staff as possible while walking through the experience with Frank. We had only one humorous encounter and that was with the recovery nurse.

Apparently, Frank decided he wanted OUT of the bed they had him in and he began moving in that direction determinedly!

Now some would describe my husband as a teddy bear. But not Linda the recovery nurse! She kept calling to him, "Frank. Frank! You can't get up yet! Do you hear me, Frank?!"

When I got back to the recovery area, Linda tried to describe what had been going on. She looked across the drowsy patient, made intentional eye contact with me, tapped her own temple several times and whispered, "He wasn't with me!"

I stifled a chuckle and said, "But he's okay now?" She assured me he was.

About this time, Frank started looking up at me with a suspicious expression and asking repeatedly, "I'm being a good patient, right?

He appeared slightly drunk (although he's never been drunk) and had great trouble holding open his eyes. Helping him get dressed to leave was an adventure too!

We've now experienced the "Male Sickness Cycle" multiple times.

(I must preface this portion of the post by explaining that Frank has no equal when it comes to nursing the girls or me. When we're sick, he covers every detail and offers gentle care. Treasure!)

But even the most amazing men seem to struggle with the Male Sickness Cycle. It goes something like this:
  • I'm tough! I don't need anyone taking care of me!
  • Wow! Did you see these stitches?!
  • Just how deep do you think they had to cut me?
  • Can I have a glass of ______?
  • Can you hand me the remote?
  • I don't want to be a bother!
  • Can you get a blanket for me?
  • Could you rub my head? My feet?
  • Should I take a nap now?
  • Isn't it time for another pain pill?
  • I'm not being a baby, am I!

And so it goes.

Today Frank is back in the office for a few hours. And with the week-end we have coming up, he has to re-engage pretty quickly. I must admit that caring for him has been a privilege. And while he has made me smile several times, he really hasn't been a baby!

Prayer Request!

We have a local ministry called The Mission that provides Christmas gifts for disadvantaged families in Winter Haven. They recently asked our church to host the children this year as they attend the event. Such a privilege!

John, Kristin and Amanda have been quickly preparing for the 500 children they told us to expect. Games. Inflatables. Candy, of course candy! And a fifteen minute children's service every hour.

Last week we discovered that it would be 500 Families! An estimated 1500-2000 CHILDREN! Our entire church is pitching in to help but we could sure use your prayers this Saturday from 9-3:00. I'll give a report; but thanks in advance!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grown-up Christmas

Christmas feels a little different this year.

Frank and I have talked about it a couple of times now. We seem to be missing the excitement. The anticipation. The thrill of all things Christmas. And we've heard the same thing from others.

Our entire married lives, Christmastime has been a very big deal!

We got married on December 30th. Meagan was born on December 20th. John proposed to Joy in December.

We've enjoyed and directed scores of Christmas pageants, parties, cantatas, programs............
We've traveled over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house. We've hosted extended family at our own home. We've given surprise gifts and received surprise gifts. We've experienced miracle provisions when the coffers were empty. We've provided Christmas for others when the opportunity was there.

But this year, it just feels different. (And it's not just because the weather is still a balmy 75 here in FL.)

Frank and I finally concluded that it feels different because this is an "all adult" Christmas. (Spencer will simply enjoy the boxes and wrapping paper this year. No real need for gifts in the boxes!)

And since our salaries don't really allow us to re-create the Lexus commercials (you know, the whole big red bow on top of the $75,000 car in the driveway complete with a dusting of snow commercial) we could feel a little less joyful.

When we were children, Christmas was truly magical! And when our girls were little, we had the thrill of watching their "dreams come true."

There were baby dolls dreamed of that brought tears of joy when opened. Bicycles (sometimes refurbished) that elicited squeals of delight. A pair of boots. A particular outfit. Always such gratitude and joy!

Several years we were serving as pioneer pastors and Christmas proved to be a true miracle provided for us by others who saw our need and cared. Those times were like a tightrope walk; fear and faith, fear and faith.

We had no ability to change reality. Because really? There was NO extra money - anywhere! We could only trust God that He would bless our children. And He always did!

Even the year that the car top carrier malfunctioned and flew open. The girls' carefully hidden gifts sprayed all over the interstate in a matter of seconds! What a Memory!!

So if the traditional thrills of giving, receiving, and even cold weather seem to be evading us what do we do?

Well, Frank and I have taken an honest look at what we've always thought brought the "joyful" to Christmas. And we've hit some interesting observations.

If we try to re-create the Christmases of our childhood, it doesn't fit. Kind of like squeezing into a playhouse that we outgrew long ago.

And if we try to re-create the Christmases of our girls' childhoods we'll make them miserable!

The remedy? Pretty simple, actually. And some may even say it's a bit cheesy.

But it's working for us.

We've chosen to focus on the original Joy. The CHRIST of Christmas.

And as we have, creative ideas are beginning to flow. Opportunities are presenting themselves. Momentum is building. And the shocker? As the focus moves from us and our "feelings," the Christmas Joy we longed to find is returning!

Such Irony!

May I encourage you to do the same if Christmas is feeling different for you this year? It may be due to reduced finances. Maybe you've lost a precious family member. Some are struggling with health issues.

You can't change the reality. But you CAN shift your focus!

Find something to be grateful for. Fill a need in the life of someone else. Write a letter of appreciation. Stop looking at commercials and sales papers! Look instead at the promises we have in God's Word.

And today I'm offering a money back guarantee. Try the Fabulous Focus Shift for three days and see if the joy isn't resurrected in your Christmas heart. If you aren't completely satisfied I'll return every penny plus cover shipping and handling!

Merry Grown-up Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Festive Frenzy

(Please read the following to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas".)

"By the 5th of December my party count was three! Two great church gatherings. And a concert that was absolutely freeeeee."

Yes, friends. My posting has slowed to a crawl for many reasons. The main reason being all things fantastic about Christmas!

Would it be right for someone who loves people so very much (as do I) to NOT be part of multiple festive gatherings at this most social time of year? (Okay, so you detected that I've also enjoyed far too many peppermint latte's already. Hasn't everyone?!)

It's true. I'm a Christmas Festivity Junkie!

Even as I compose this post, I have rolling in the back of my mind the necessity of soon determining wardrobe choices for the next three evenings of "Meeting and Greeting." My sister has often referred to me as the "Social Butterfly" in her life. Whatever could she mean?

Now, all this gathering has it's down side too.

Like Friday morning when I got up to discover my first Christmas Disaster of 2011.

Frank had spent five precious hours the Friday before giving our carpet the cleaning of its fibrous life! When he finished, it looked almost new. I could hardly wait for the entertaining to begin.

Unfortunately, Bella (the horse dog) sneaked some Christmas chocolate that dogs aren't supposed to eat because it makes them violently ill. And she decided to become violently ill on my freshly cleaned carpet!! And we had twenty guests scheduled to arrive in eight short hours!

What do you mean, "Is she better now?"

What you need to ask is, "Did she live to see another day?!"

Yes, but only because Frank hid her in the garage before I could get to her! And yes, she's better....stupid dog!

Frank re-cleaned the necessary areas. We bought Christmas-scented air freshener in the industrial size. Lowered the lights. Lit candles. And hoped everyone would buy the idea that it was all ambiance related!

Then there was the Sunday morning disaster. The water department failed to meet their expected time of 6:00 AM to have the water back on in our community after working through the night. That meant we had to jump into high gear, pack up and dash to the church for showers.

As a bonus, the water in our church shower tops the meter for being sulfuric. In other words, it smells just like rotten eggs!

What a stinky start for Sunday morning. Kristin and I literally gagged our way through the necessary Sabbath cleanings. Whew!

All attitudes were quickly adjusted in order to enjoy Sunday service with our church family.We headed home after lunch, hoping to catch a quick nap before the party that night.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but droplets of water and a raging shower, Dear!
You guessed it. I turned the shower on while the water was off. And later when the water came back on, there was no one home to turn the shower off!!

We'll have other Christmas disasters for 2011, I'm sure. But we've come to view these as all part of the Memory Making Process.

Some of our funniest family stories revolve around situations that felt like a real disaster at the time. Might as well stop and laugh. What else are you gonna do?

I came across a great thought jotted in the back of my calendar. The speaker said, "God uses difficulty to beckon us; not BURY us. Without Goliath, David would have just been a musician tending sheep!"

Rich, right?

May all your festivities be more fun than frenzy! And if not, just think, you've made a memory!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ready or Not


DECEMBER FIRST?????!!!!! Say it isn't So!!!

I currently possess ONE Christmas gift which poorly represents the dozens I must procure prior to C-Day! Ho Ho OOOHHH!

I read about a young friend in her late 20's who had already purchased, wrapped, decorated and posted all things Christmas by the Monday following Thanksgiving.

My question for her?

What exactly does she plan to do with all of December? She'll completely miss out on the rushing, the scurrying, the heart-palpitating that most of us associate with this blessed season.

Wait. Come to think of it, that probably wouldn't be such a bad idea!

Fortunately for me (one of the classic UN-prepared), I have many extra hands ready to jump in and help with any and all things Christmas.

We are planning a staff and board gathering at our house tomorrow night. Joy will help cook. Kristin will decorate. Meagan will entertain. And Frank will join me in looking like the cucumber cool hosts we wish we were! (Not too sure what I plan to do if they're unavailable some day!)

Since I seldom ever shop, I have help in that area as well. People are so pleasantly surprised to see me in a store that they gladly join me.

Christmas shopping for me is more like a hunting expedition anyway. Not at all the leisurely, year-long event Mom Hawley enjoys. Almost all my Christmas purchases are made within a two week period. Just like hunting season.

Armed with my list and my coupons. Dressed in comfortable clothing and flat shoes. Knowing all the best bargain locations. I move stealthily into position for the kill. BOOM! I snag the bargain of all times! And the exhilaration of each purchase provides the adrenaline needed to keep tracking until every last purchase is loaded in the truck! (Um, Tahoe. I got carried away with the metaphor.)

And we already have teams in place to lead most of the celebrations and events scheduled for church. that I think about it, pass the eggnog. I'm ready too!

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Traditions DO matter!

They don't have to be elaborate. They needn't be costly. They shouldn't involve guilt or condemnation.

But they should happen!

Traditions serve as a thread weaving the craziness and chaos of our lives into a tapestry that makes some sense. Now truth is, every one of us has someone in our family who is a "little odd," "eccentric," "different." And contact with these people sometimes inhibits our holiday celebrations.

(I hear someone out there saying, "No, Girl. My relatives are straight up NUTS!" Well, perhaps.)

The fact remains that too many of us opt out of participating in traditions/family gatherings simply because we've determined that they add stress. I'll leave the "family" issues for another post. But the traditions..........

Please allow me to encourage you; I've found them to be incredibly important. (And bear in mind that this post is coming to you from one of God's most UN-organized children.)

Thanksgiving, for us, brought very simple traditions. These mostly revolve around menu choices. And decorating themes.

But we also give thanks in a different kind of way. Two kernels of corn are placed on each dinner plate. Before we serve the meal, Dad takes a small bowl and drops his kernels in one at a time while telling two things he's thankful for. Each family member then follows suite.

(This year, someone got the bright idea that we should play a trick on Nathan - the Original Prankster. Frank gave him twenty kernels of corn and explained, "The new person lists more things than the others. It helps us get to know them. Okay, GO...." Glad Nathan is such a good sport!)

When we put up our Christmas tree, we listen to Handel's Messiah and top the evening with hot drinks like cider or cocoa. We enjoy the finished project by rehearsing how the tree points to Christ: Green - Everlasting Life; Lights - He is the light of the world; Red beads - He shed His blood for our salvation, etc.

The grand finale involves a walk down our driveway and to the road. On Dad's count, we all turn at the same time to behold the wonder of "Our Christmas Tree!" (I'll try to include more of these over the coming weeks if you'd like.)

I'm simply saying this - even if you have NO family traditions at this point, start some. You'll be amazed at how quickly and adamantly your children will catch on. Even something as insignificant as "angel vs. star tree topper" can become a benchmark issue.

On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving three years ago, my sweet mom went to Heaven. She left behind a fierce desire to keep family connected; even the crazy ones! The ache in my heart is somehow soothed by knowing that she lives on in the traditions we've adopted and added to.

Simple things she did with her mom (who was born in 1902) will continue with my grandchildren! That's a legacy worth perpetuating.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Simple Truth

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." -Ben Franklin

And how accurate his simple truth!

Three annual visits ago, my doctor instructed me in her beautiful middle-eastern accent, "This is a small matter now. You should have it removed while it is only a simple procedure! I can set up the appointment for you this week."

She pushed her non-designer glasses up on the bridge of her straight nose. Nodded her tiny, brilliant head. And flashed her trade-mark smile. "Yes, let's follow through this week."

At that moment I didn't feel I had the resources nor the time for said procedure. (It would have required the involvement of an entirely new doctor and the insurance deductible wasn't yet met - if you catch my drift!)

"Well, it isn't really causing me any trouble........" I stumbled for words. "Let me talk with my husband." (Once again using the trusty spouse as scape goat!)

"It's up to you, of course. I just wouldn't wait too long." Her accent (usually a delight) now sounded slightly judgmental.

Fast forward three annual visits to January of this year.

"Oh, my!" says the same doctor; in the same middle-eastern accent. "This must be attended immediately. I fear you've waited too long."

[Insert serious rolling of big brown eyes. Uh, those would be mine! Along with deep sighs of serious disappointment. Uh, those would be hers!]

So it was that at the appointed time I met with the appointed doctor who totally concurred with the diagnosis of my original appointment. How appropriate!

"Yes indeed, Mrs. Hawley." This doctor is all business. One quick smile coming in the door. One firm hand shake going out the door. "This could have been handled with a simple office visit earlier. Now, it will require surgery."

Fortunately, we have an excellent outpatient surgery facility in Lakeland. And my procedure qualified for care there if I had someone to nurse me the 24 hours following.

It went something like this:
  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight last night.
  • A jittery, pre-dawn drive this morning MINUS coffee, tea or even a mint.
  • Opportunity to model the latest IN-appropriate hospital wear. (So drafty.)
  • Fake smile on the ready for each office attendant, nurse, anesthesiologist, and doctor on duty.
  • Procedure completed and heading home for recuperation before lunch.

What I thought I didn't have time or money for three years ago, has now become a matter of more time and three times more money than it would have been then. Seriously huge SIGH!

My own "John Franklin Hawley" must surely be part of the "Benjamin Franklin" family tree. For years he has helped our family make decisions understanding the truth that every decision has consequences.

His modern interpretation goes like this:
"Pay now - Play later,
Play now - Pay later.
Choosing the latter is
Always More Expensive!!!"

And as I sit on the couch this evening in recovery mode, I can only say - "Amen! Amen to that!"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaching Babies

Please don't be misled by this title.

I am writing today about "teaching babies" but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the twist.

Many Sunday mornings I have the great privilege of watching over Spencer while Mom is at rehearsal. It's an hour that I look forward to with great anticipation! He and I work along together tying up loose ends for the morning service. But we also have to stop and "talk" pretty often too.

(I'm learning to speak "baby" all over again. It's fabulous!)

This past Sunday, I sat him on the floor near the mirror on my office door. He played contentedly (as perfect babies tend to do) while I took care of some matter. I kept glancing his way occasionally just to make sure all was well.

He has a favorite teething toy that Grandma Linda gave him. It's a little piano that lights up and plays three different tunes when the keys are pressed. Bonus feature? It also rattles!

The piano was just beyond his reach and I noticed that he was working really hard to get to it. Just as I jumped up to give it to him, I heard Joy's voice in my head, "No, Mom. If you make it too easy for him, he won't crawl. When he wants it badly enough, he'll get it. Don't help!"

Yes, I was torn! But Frank and I try to abide by the rules of the Mom and Dad. So I sat back down and watched.

Spencer finally made the leap and flipped onto his little belly. Then the work began in earnest. Reaching. Straining. Giving little grunts. Inching forward.

It took everything in me to sit still! I really wanted to make it easier for him.

But it only took a moment for him to work his way over to the piano. And on the first swipe it rewarded him with a happy tune of triumph! His squeal of self-satisfaction caused me to light up too.

And I heard the gentle whisper in my heart, "Easy things seldom are the best things! Working and waiting to reach what you want is often the better route. It makes you even more appreciative."

That baby was teaching a Sunday School lesson without using any words!

Teaching Babies! Who knew they could be so effective?!

PS - I received a comment from a dear lady named "Natalie" a few posts back. I wanted to let you know that my husband and I have prayed for you.

Any time you dear readers make the effort to comment, I value those and pray for you to be blessed! Thanks for being part of this communication venue!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

What To Say?

So exactly what is most important to report?

Do I tell of the six wonderful days we've just spent in Pennsylvania?
  • Preaching and encouraging
  • Speaking for the Ladies Fall Luncheon
  • Meeting new friends (Including babies that we've only seen in photos)
  • Reconnecting with long time friends (Lanzas/Jordans)
  • Afternoon with mentors (Kyllonen Family)
  • Quick visits to museums (Antique Cars/Civil War)
  • Short walks in perfect fall weather (complete with colorful leaves)
  • Wonderful prayer times with Glad Tidings Congregation

Or do I elaborate on how much it looked like Spencer had grown during those days away? Or how he "talked and talked" on our ride home from the airport? (Usually, it makes me car sick to look backward while riding. But watching him - eyebrows raised, mouth moving, eyes sparkling, hands waving, feet kicking - provided the perfect distraction.)

Maybe I should tell about how excited we were to see the progress John and Amanda had made on our church website and fall event coming up next weekend. Everything stitched up neatly and topped off with almost twenty going to youth convention this weekend.

Did I mention how nice it was to know that the ladies event I missed at our church came off flawlessly? (Marvelous Team!!) And that we never worried one minute about Wednesday services? Molly carried the adult study and no one else noticed we were away. Smile.

Even Bella and Gracie appeared well fed and emotionally healthy!

So the bottom line?

It's nice to walk a different path occasionally. But stepping out of the routine also highlights the blessings associated with home and makes the treasures found there all the more precious.

That's all.

I have a funny story brewing - hope to have it ready this week. Thanks for stopping by...........

Thursday, November 3, 2011

He Is Aware

I’m missing my mom so badly!

Time does heal; but the void remains. And certain things like scents, pictures, sounds, even traditions put the spotlight on that void revealing its depth.

Yesterday was two years, eleven months since Mom’s change of address. She was just fine in late September, 2008. And just weeks later, she was in Heaven.

My sister, Vonnie, and I still try to sort through the shock of it every once in a while. Neither one of us wants to mark this time of year solely by her passing; Mom would adamantly protest that! She was all about life and living it fully. Still………..

The perky little LPN examining my medical history yesterday became one of those spotlights I mentioned earlier.

She faced the computer. Clicking briskly, efficiently through the various pages and lines of information they had collected on me over the past six years. Allergies. Medications. Treatments. Tests. Check-ups.

“So, Mrs. Hawley, your children are 18, 20 and 23? Is that correct?”

“Oh, goodness no.” I laughed. “That information is outdated.” I helped her make the corrections.

CLICK. CLICK. (Her mouse was perky too.)

“And your father is 71. Good health?”

“He’s 74.”


“Your mother is 71. Fair health?”

My breath caught and my throat tightened.

“Um. She’s deceased.”


The word MOTHER disappeared from the computer screen. She went on to the next question without so much as a glance backward. No offer of condolence. Not even a pause.

My heart screamed, “Wait a minute! My mom’s life can’t be dismissed with one little CLICK of your ridiculous mouse!”

Tears came to my eyes and silently spilled over the edges. I was glad she didn’t take time to look my way.

I quickly corralled my emotions and swiped at the stray tears; a bit shocked at how suddenly the cloud of emotion had rolled over me.

And like a fall rain storm tends to do, it lingered throughout the day. Little showers hitting without warning. First here; then there. Even as I taught Bible study last night, my throat tightened again. Tears welled. I had to stop and take a deep breath. What else can one do?

But, Dear Reader, know that God is always aware. He is close to the broken-hearted.

When we finally got home from church last night, I drug myself inside and Frank made his pilgrimage to the mailbox. He dropped the mail on the dining room table and we both started working on a snack.

As the water boiled for a cup of liquid comfort, I glanced at the table and spotted a large envelope with a distinctive hand-writing.

Joyce Hawley (just like my own mom) learned cursive writing while it still was considered an art form. And they learned well. I have little notes tucked away all over my house and office with their handwriting as evidence to this fact.

My name and address flowed across the entirety of the 8 ½” X 11” container. A smile broke out as I tore open the flap. The contents? A catalogue and a note.

Frank glanced over my shoulder and commented, “That’s not a catalogue you would order from. Why did Mom send it?”

I was still smiling as I read the enclosed note. “It’s not about the catalogue,” I patiently explained.

“Your mom is telling me she loves me. She knows that if I were at her kitchen table, I would sit and thumb through this. So she went to all the effort to mail it just to let me know that she’s thinking of me.”

Frank wrapped me up in the hug Mom would have given if she could. And I drank in the comfort that the Heavenly Father had sent my way.

I think the hymn writer put it well………”Oh, What a Savior!!”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bad Form

We were terrible neighbors last night!

We went away to dinner and left on our porch light. Not a big deal most evenings. But definitely BAD FORM for Halloween night!

We live in one of those neighborhoods that serves as a "Trick or Treat Mecca" on October 31st. Twenty or so houses close together. Quiet road leading to a cul-de-sac. Lots of small children. And bonus - another neighborhood just like it directly across the main road!

The kind of neighborhood where van loads of people park at the end and slowly stroll through; ringing every doorbell along the way.

Every year since moving here, we've simply been away on Halloween night. But last night, in our haste to get away before the costumed kiddies began arriving, we flipped on the outside lights from sheer habit. And we rode with someone else, so both cars were left on the driveway. Making our house look like we were participants in the candy collection club.

I can't even imagine how many parents led little ones up to our door, rang the bell and then waited patiently while Bella and Gracie barked their silly heads off. I can just hear them, "Let's go, honey. Apparently these people don't want to be bothered. How rude to leave on their light!" Sigh.

Actually, we've never celebrated Halloween.

When the girls were little, we lived in a part of the country that was heavily involved in New Age, occult and witchcraft practices. In that area, there was no innocence of childhood associated with the evening.

So we found alternatives. Still dressed up sometimes. Still indulged in cavity producing cuisine. We just didn't go door to door. And we didn't call it Halloween.

Since moving to Winter Haven, we've discreetly disappeared for the evening each Oct. 31st and it worked okay. Until last night!

Leaving the lights on felt a bit like we had defrauded the little ones we live around. So during lunch today, I'll head to Wal-mart for leftover candy. Then I'll impose on Kristin (the creative genius) to help me put together little goody bags for the twenty or so children that live right near us.

I'll probably feel compelled to include some kind of note with an apology. Words are my thing, after all. Then I'll have to convince Frank to make the journey with me, knocking on doors, ringing door bells in our very own reverse trick or treating production after work.

It might would have been easier to just stay here and hand out candies with a special sticker on each one telling the children that God loves them. Sigh. Why didn't I think of that this time yesterday?!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The List

The more accurate title for this post? List Disposal and Other Occasional Necessities

Unfortunately, that lengthy title wouldn't fit my format.

Yesterday marked an out of character but totally appropriate moment in my life. I made my "Day Off List" as usual. You know, the list sometimes referred to as the "Honey-Do List". The list we wives compose then politely request that our husbands help us complete.

(And if politely requesting falls short of the desired goal, I've been known to cajole, plead, bargain, arm-twist and even whine a bit.)

The list for October 28 was clear, concise, uncomplicated. I wrote it out while waiting for our coffee to brew. At the end of this day, we would feel completely productive and I intended to not waste a single minute.

Frank and I had been going full tilt for twenty-six days in a row. Not a single day off in all that time. We had put so many things on the "back burner" that I couldn't even find the burners!

Fortunately, we had company from NC last weekend and Kristin gave the house a thorough cleaning before their arrival. That kept us from starring in the next season of "Hoarders" or whatever that show is about people living in messy houses.

Frank and I even discussed The List for Friday and agreed totally; so I knew productivity would prevail!

Coffee? Check!
Devotions? Check!
Canines Fed and Pottied? Check!

But just before making our protein enriched oatmeal that would serve as jet fuel for the morning, an odd thing happened.

Frank said, "Honey, why don't you sit down here with me and let's watch Joyce Meyer this morning?"

I couldn't resist such an invitation. Good teaching. Good cuddling. Good cup of tea. Sure, the list could wait a minute. Besides, this was an investment not a deterrent!

So I sat.

And after Joyce Meyer, we decided we'd like a scrambled egg sandwich and some bacon.

So I cooked.

And after our breakfast, we decided we'd like to exercise.

And after our exercise, we decided we'd like to watch a movie we had rented.

(My girls are in total shock now. I never sit down to watch TV after the morning news until time for the evening news.)

And after we watched the entire movie, we decided we'd like to go to Sam's.

And after strolling through Sam's, we took a leisurely ride to Books A Million to find a replacement for my journal.

And after Books A Million we decided to stop in Belk's to pick up Keurig Decaf.

And while in Belk's I showed Frank a Christmas dish pattern I've come to like.

And then we decided to go home and eat lentils.

And then we dozed with Wheel of Fortune while waiting for the Final Game of the World Series to start.

And then we got set for the Game.

And then I picked up my clear, concise, uncomplicated list and folded it.

Not one item on the list had been checked off. Not one thing to herald us as hard workers. Not one indication of our organizational skills!

But Productive? CHECK!! CHECK!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ode to Aging

(My battery is low and I have to write doubly fast this morning; please pardon typos you may discover.)

So, I remembered another reason that I miss cold weather while packing for the retreat this past weekend - turtlenecks!

Ah, the camouflage capabilities available through the lowly turtleneck sweater!

For obvious reasons I seldom ever wear them here in FL. I had quite a few when we first moved down from NC but between 75 degree winter days and mid-life power surges I find them unnecessary now.

A cold front moved across the peninsula the day we left so we packed all our favorite "winter clothing" for the weekend. (It was only in the low 80's outside but convention centers usually run the air conditioning as though electricity is free! My nose didn't thaw out until we were almost back to Winter Haven.)

I still have a little purple turtleneck sweater (sleeveless, of course) that looks great under my conference wardrobe staple - the jeans jacket. I tucked my extra chin away in the billowing folds of the sweater, added a long silver necklace and headed for the first meeting feeling confident.

Diane Keaton (Father of the Bride I and II; Mad Money) also believes in the benefits afforded by turtleneck dressing. I've always thought her to be a lovely actress. And actually, it just occurred to me that this could also be referred to as turkey neck avoidance dressing. But that likely wouldn't help with sales. Smile.

When we all arrived at the convention hotel, it came to light that we had two distinct age groups. Kristin suggested that we have "a young-un room and two old-un rooms"! I was immediately offended but moved my suitcase anyway.

Our room went to sleep sooner; woke up earlier; flailed covers more frequently; and snored. Sad but true.

Topping things off, I made my first visit to a podiatrist on Thursday morning.

Frank had injured his heel playing racquet ball a few months back and found Dr. Patel, the patient podiatrist. Apparently Dr. Patel is also popular because he was running an hour behind schedule when we arrived.

I'd been having serious pain in the ball of my left foot and knew it was time to find out what was going on. So I accompanied Frank to his follow up appointment.

The fact that everyone in the waiting area had probably been a teenager during the Truman era gave me a little concern. Then when Dr. Patel grabbed Frank's foot and immediately pressed the one spot that was still sensitive, I started thinking maybe my foot didn't hurt so badly after all.

"Okay, Mrs. Hawley. Let's take a look at you." Too late to run. He started pressing and pushing and palpitating.

"Um hm. Okay. Yes. Yes. Well. Okay. Let's put a cortisone shot in here, okay?" He said it so casually that it could have been an invitation to lunch.

But no! This doctor wanted to freeze the top of my foot then stick a needle through my foot shooting medicine into my foot in order to cure my foot! Nothing in that procedure sounded like compassionate medical treatment in any way, shape or form to me.

I looked at Frank with pleading, puppy-dog eyes. But he was no help at all! Cortisone shots were something he had already endured and he was all for it.

He did stand up and offer to hold my hand. I looked away!

Now let me tell you........I have pushed three children into this world without the aid of so much as an extra strength Tylenol. So I'm a pretty tough broad. But that shot HURT! I'm sure I left a couple of fingernail markings on the back of Frank's hand.


Turkey necks, bunions, bursitis (I didn't even know how to spell it), power surges............ Aging isn't for the faint of heart. But a little laughter sure helps the journey!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A New Favorite

Christine Caine Rocks!

As the guest speaker for our fall retreat this past weekend, she challenged my heart in major ways! I found myself needing to sit and process at the conclusion of each sermon. Deep questions needed answering. Legitimate concerns needed addressing.

The weekend proved to be a wise investment of time and resources. If you haven't heard of Christine, you should Google her. A passionate Greek woman who grew up in Australia, she speaks to women from a rich depth. Powerful!

Of course when a group of women go away together, bonds form and truths are revealed that can't be replicated anywhere else.

Believe it or not, we had a lady in our group that had never - in twenty-five years of marriage - spent a single, solitary night away from her beloved. (Her husband, that is!) I questioned her resolve when she first signed up, but she assured me that she wanted to go.

And go she did! She even brought snacks and will be required to attend all future conferences.

I have to say I was extremely proud of her for staying through the entire event - including the concluding meal at P.F. Chang's. Splendiferous!

I have a rather humorous story to share tomorrow. Look forward to meeting you back here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Real Life Hero

My hero!

Every man longs to have a woman look deep into his eyes and whisper those words of awe and affirmation. I know this to be true because I've read the book LOVE AND RESPECT. (Which I would highly recommend to each of you.)

And I know it's true because I've been married for almost 32 years! In that length of time, if you will watch and take note, you'll learn things that make the second thirty years even more pleasant than the first. Smile.

This weekend I had opportunity to journey alongside my personal hero as he lived a bucket list dream. I found it both exhilarating and educating.

Frank loves anything to do with missions. Foreign missions. Home missions. U.S. missions trips. Missions trips abroad. Raising missions support. Highlighting mission-aries! He loves it all.

So when he heard that there would be a 200 mile bike ride to raise money for missions - he was in! In the A/G, our teenagers raise funds to provide vehicles for our missionaries. Cars, trucks, vans, etc. One missionary we support needed a unicycle - the youth provided that!

Frank started training for the ride in January. Our youth group discovered that he planned to make the ride on a regular trail bike and they took a calculated risk.

"We'll raise the money to buy you a road bike, Pastor; if you'll raise twice as much on this ride."


The week before the ride, John decided he didn't want Dad riding alone. So he bought a bike and started riding too.

Last Tuesday as they trained, Frank took a tumble which landed us in the urgent care center closing the gash on his leg with ten stitches. (My man is all or nothing!)

"He FELL?" you ask in shocked disbelief.

No, Frank never falls. He occasionally has an involuntary dismount! And this one was a hum dinger!

On Friday morning, Frank and John started out on their conquest with equal parts of optimism and trepidation. Finishing would take true focus and determination. This was no joke; Frank had the stitches to prove it!

When Joy and I met them at the fifty mile point, they were already pushing hard. When the first day ended, we were there to cheer with the others. And to make liberal application of Ben-gay! 100 miles down. 100 miles to go.

Saturday, however, took a bad turn. Frank's front tire began to leak air and they were forced to stop every 10 miles or so to pump it back up. By mid-morning they were an hour and a half behind their time from Friday.

A ride like this is largely mental and when we met them with a new inner tube, they were both very discouraged.

John repaired the tire and then stepped aside to talk with Joy.

We had discovered that only a few riders were actually attempting the entire 200 miles. Most were content with 100. Several more had dropped out completely for various reasons.

I came close to Frank and asked the unspeakable, "Honey, should you cut it short since you've had such a time with this tire?"

"NO!" His answer wasn't unkind. It was simply emphatic.

The new inner tube helped. But it couldn't change the facts. The last fifty miles found them pedaling against the wind. They knew they were the last men on the trail. Frank had been told that he was the oldest rider.

But they pedaled on. Because that's what heroes do. Giving up? Not an option!

When those two yellow jerseys appeared on the trail near the finish line, we all burst into applause and began to cheer wildly! They made it! They rode 202 miles in two short days!! And the funds raised? Three times what the youth had invested to put Pastor on the trail!

On Sunday, the entire congregation joined the cheering and congratulating! Such a joyous moment for everyone involved.

Typically, this would be the wrap-up point for my post. But a marathon bike ride isnt the entirety of this hero story.

That came this morning around 6:30.

Frank came into the living room and said, "Sheri, we've got to get that Christmas cactus replanted today and this morning is when I can help you. Come on, let's get it done."

The cactus plays an important part in our lives because it came to us from the funeral service honoring my mom. This Christmas will be three years that it has bloomed brightly; telling us that there is joy in sorrow.

But it's grown to the point that I can no longer transplant it by myself. And our busy lives had delayed the transplant far too long jeopardizing the health of the plant.

So early daylight found the two of us wrestling with a slightly overgrown Christmas cactus; a 25 lb bag of potting soil; and a pot that could hide a small child. Thirty minutes passed before we could clean up.

With my hands finally clean, I reached up and touched Frank's face.

No one else was there to cheer. No one snapped pictures of his work. No one would ever know of his effort to keep that plant living just because he understands its significance.

But I looked deep into those blue eyes and declared, "You're my hero! Thank you."

The truest heroes are those who live that way in the spotlight and in the shadows! Just thought it needed to be recorded somehow. Smile.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Crossing

It's official - I've crossed over!

Paul (New Testament writer) identified the importance of older women teaching younger women how to live well. I've always been in the ranks of the younger women. Asking questions. Learning. Watching. Listening.

But this past week, what I've suspected for quite sometime, became abundantly clear. I've crossed over from the ranks of "younger" to the position of "older". Ready or not - I'm there!

But marking the passage actually came with such great delight that I didn't have time to deliberate or even bemoan the facts of aging and passage and time and such.

Frank and I traveled to Ohio for the purpose of ministering during the A/G ladies fall conference. And before the conference began, I had the privilege of spending two days teaching and praying with the pastor's wives that came early.

Very few of those precious ladies were my age. And only one or two were older. So the contrast was stark. More evident than usual.

But the excitement and joy were completely contagious. These Wonderful Ohio Women (W.O.W. - the state director, Lisa Page, aptly named them) are courageous in their call as pastoral helpmates. They asked questions that revealed their deep compassion and sensitivity to their role.

I found myself challenged to share messages of true substance.

No fluff needed in their world. Not one shed tears of self-pity. They wept for the people they serve. They wept over the lost of their city. They wept longing to be more. It was truly amazing to be with them.

One young woman that I met is a missionary who facilitates missions experiences for college age people. She planned and executed more than 70 different trips last summer alone for teams headed to some 35 countries! WOW!

Katrina and I spent some time sharing and praying together after one of the evening services. What an honor to listen to her heart. Nod with affirmation about the things God is telling her. Wrap my arms around her for encouragement.

We decided that we're both okay with occasional tears and crying - it's the snot that's a real bother. (Ah, youth!)

My heart leaped when she looked straight into my eyes and said, "You're such a Mama!"

Without the slightest hesitation I answered, "Yes, I am. Guess that's what I do best!"

Katrina spent her second summer (of five she's committed to) running camps in Alaska for children others have forgotten. She will help change lives I'll never encounter. But I have a part in their transformation.

Because I'm the older who encouraged the younger to live well!

Not even a good face-lift could give me this feeling of joy.

Thanks, Wonderful Ohio Women! My crossing will always be marked by my time with you.

PS - Today Frank tackles a dream!

He has trained for several months and is right this minute participating in the first leg of a 200 mile bike trip. (I don't mean a Harley kind of bike. I mean the Pedal kind!)

He, John and fifteen other riders left the hotel parking lot at 7:00 AM. A bit nervous; majorly excited!

Thankfully, a cool breeze is blowing here. We're hoping for some light cloud cover for the afternoon portion.

They do 100 miles today and 100 tomorrow. I think that's when they'll really need extra prayer! Smile.

Steve Arnold, one of the dear men of our church, left Winter Haven at 4:00 this morning in order to cover the place where the riders get sandwiches and Gatorade. Our congregation have given almost $3,000.00 toward missions for the sponsorship. Joy and I are here to cheer them on and rub their aching backs when they return.

Dreams dreamed are good. Dreams lived to the full are FANTASTIC!!

Hope your day is blessed!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Set Up

Small acts reap big dividends!

We found that to be true yet again on our trip to Ohio this past week. I've already shared with you that airports are a favorite people-watching venue for me. From the cabbie at the curb to the final baggage handler by the exit, Frank and I spend our flight time alert for interesting individuals.

And we're seldom ever disappointed! You've seen them too.
  • The lady who needed a friend to say, "Um, I don't think you should wear that in public!"
  • The gentleman who needs someone to smooth down the "rooster comb" sticking up on the back of his head.
  • The young mother lugging a car seat, pushing a stroller, yelling at the five year old and corralling the three year old.
  • The kid with more tattoos than skin.
  • The elderly couple holding hands on the transport vehicle. Smile.
Frank has expressed through the years his regret for not being able to serve in the military. So he has become a self-appointed military appreciator. Every trip through the airport requires a few extra minutes for us because he enjoys shaking the hand of those traveling in uniform; expressing our appreciation for their service.

That simple habit brought us to a "Divine Appointment" moment on the OH trip.

We got to our gate on Tuesday and I stepped to the desk requesting a seat in the exit row. Score!! There were two seats with extra leg room still available and we snagged them. This was going to be a great trip!

The boarding process was about to begin and I wanted to make a final pit stop. (Airplane bathrooms can pose a health risk - like claustrophobia!) But I waited by our bags while Frank shook the hand of one more young man wearing army fatigues.

When I got back from the restroom Frank said, "Honey, go over there and speak to that young lady. That was her husband or boyfriend leaving and she's crying."


Frank is the one anointed to walk up to perfect strangers and become part of their lives - not me.

"I think she's on her cell phone, Sweetheart. I don't want to interrupt her." Totally legitimate excuse.

At just that moment, she turned toward us, making it obvious she was not on her cell phone. Deep sigh.

"Sheri, go speak to her. Just ask if we can be praying for them." He wasn't going to change his mind and they were about to call our boarding zone.

So I slipped over to the lovely young lady and sat on the edge of the seat across from her. When she looked up, I realized she was about Kristin's age. Tears trickled from her beautiful eyes and compassion welled up in my heart.

"Excuse me," I began. "My husband just spoke with your....... (I faltered) um, was that your husband or boyfriend?"

"He's my fiance," she attempted a feeble smile and swiped at yet another stray tear.

"Oh, I see." By now my fears were forgotten. Everything in me just wanted to reach out and pull her into a big mama hug! "Is he being deployed?"

"Yes, he's going to Afghanistan for a year." Again the brave smile.

I reached over and patted her knee. "I'm so sorry. But my husband and I would like to pray for him while he's away. Would you mind me asking his name?"

She studied my face for a brief moment then nodded her head. "Um, that would be great! David, his name is David."

"Well, we'll be praying. For him and for you, okay?" My southern mama self couldn't resist, I had to pat her once more. This time on the shoulder as I stood to leave.

"Thank you," she said. "Thank you very much!" Her sincerety touched me.

They were calling for us to board so Frank and I gathered our things and hurried to the gate.

I reported all she'd said as we squeezed ourselves down the center aisle, searching for 22A and 22B.

When we neared our prized exit row seats, my eyes widened in surprise. The individual in 22C was........ (did you already guess it?)...... DAVID.

Divine Appoinment.

Frank and I exchanged knowing glances; we recognize a set-up when we see one. We settled in and waited until the plane had taken off.

I leaned over and asked casually, "Is your name David?"

He looked a bit surprised. "Yes. Yes it is."

I quickly explained. "I met your fiance at the gate. We saw that she was crying and wanted to let her know that my husband and I would be praying for you both."

"Yes, I know," he said. Now it was my turn to look surprised.

"She texted me as soon as you walked away. That meant so much to her. And to me. Thank you very much!"

Now tears started stinging my eyes.

The flight to Atlanta took an hour. We didn't monopolize David's conversation time. Several others on the plane wanted the opportunity to greet him and express their appreciation too.

But we did get to let him know:
  • he would be prayed for,
  • his service was significant,
  • our meeting wasn't mere chance!
Speaking to David's fiance meant walking W-A-Y out of my comfort zone. But the trip was worth it.

I have a dear friend who's granddaughter will be in the states for only a few days this month. Instead of saying, "Oh, I'd love to see you Sweetie. Why don't you come down here?" My friend is getting on a plane herself and going to where her granddaughter is!

Time, money, effort - all expenditures outside her comfort zone. But a trip that says more to that precious military granddaughter than all the "words" my friend could ever say!

I love God's divine appointments, don't you?!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Heart Full

Full to overflowing - that's my heart!

Preaching and teaching are two of my favorite things to do. And I had the privilege of delivering six messages over four days to some of the finest ladies in all of Ohio! In addition, there were incredible bonuses to these days of ministry.

The bonuses?

Frank traveled with me this time. The directors of the conference are dear lifetime friends - Lisa and Brenton Page. AND signs of fall were all around us while in Ohio!

Color. Cool air. Comfortable conversations. Connections with the Father. Could it be any better? I don't think so.

The real blessings were all the behind-the-scenes people who sent messages saying they would remember to pray while Frank and I ministered. It truly was a team effort!

I'll report in more detail tomorrow. But I just had to get the initial "SHOUT" out of my system.

We made it back to Tampa late Saturday. Thankfully Frank had planned for a guest speaker Sunday. And it's so true, there's no place like home.

But I must also add, there's nothing quite as "sweet" as encouraging leaders who encourage God's people. That's worth time away from home any day!

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Naked and Unashamed"

You're gonna want a cup of tea and a couple of extra minutes to read this one. And I can almost assure you that before it's over you'll be smiling that embarrassed kind of smile and saying, "Oh, no! Oh, Sheri, noooooo!"

I mopped my kitchen last night.

Not such an earth shattering announcement; except that I don't like working on Sundays if I can avoid it. It's been my quiet nod to "Sabbath" expression through the years. We've always tried to do laundry and housework other days unless we hit emergency status.

But having the Shark steam mop in operation last night was a necessity, I assure you!

We were scheduled to hold a recap luncheon after church yesterday. But several key families weren't available so we postponed. Since we had the time blocked out anyway, I got the bright idea that we should go ahead and invite someone to our house for lunch.

I threw a chicken in the crock pot (no time for the potatoes); seasoned it and dashed out the door at 7:30. We got to church and I ran my little idea by Frank, then Kristin. Both agreed - good idea.

But my "someone" invitation quickly escalated to a lunch for thirteen people! Apparently I'm a real woman of faith to think that one scrawny chicken was going to feed thirteen!


Church ended. Everyone I invited agreed to come and bring a couple of side dishes. Kristin and Ashley dashed to the house to start setting up.

By the time Frank and I arrived, Kristin had things well underway. I only had to jump in, finish my side dishes and direct getting things served. Thirteen people. A table to seat eight. Six women scurrying around. Controlled chaos.

We were hit by one mini crisis - our salt shaker had broken during family dinner Monday night and I hadn't replaced it yet. But Kristin quickly grabbed a tiny bowl; filled it with salt and a sugar spoon; positioned it next to the pepper shaker. Voila - problem solved.

"All right," I called in my cheeriest pastor's wife voice. "Let's eat!"

Everyone started gathering around the table. Four on each side. Frank and me at one end; Kristin, Ashley, Amanda at the other.

Just as we starting taking our places, a loud CRASH! came from the pantry. Shattered glass shot out from under the pantry door!

Everything stopped.

My mind was rushing. "Oh, no! The olive oil has fallen from the top shelf. Oh what a mess this is gonna........... No, wait. The olive oil is in a plastic bottle. This was something in a glass container. What did we have at the top of the pantry in a glass........"

That's when I spotted a dark liquid beginning to seep out. I yanked open the door and was hit square in the face with a powerful odor! A smell very much like................

"Oh, My Lord!!" Understanding hit me like a Mac truck!

The bottle that had broken wasn't mild mannered olive oil. It wasn't even a decorative bottle of balsamic vinegar.

No. It was a bottle of whiskey!

Yep! Whiskey! Right there in front of our guests, a bottle of whiskey lay shattered all over the floor of their tea-totaling pastor's pantry!

[Now, I have the privilege of freezing time here and explaining to all of you, my shocked readers, that Frank and I have not taken up alcoholic pursuits. Nor were we trying to hide anything.

Kristin's cough from a few days ago hadn't responded to the codeine the doctor had prescribed. So a friend in the church brought over a small bottle of whiskey along with the recipe from her grandmother for a honey, lemon, whiskey concoction guaranteed to cure a cough and help you sleep for a week! It worked perfectly! Now back to the story......]

I took a deep breath and in my cheeriest, most embarrassed, pastor's wife voice announced, "Well, the smell coming from my pantry is indeed alcohol! It was given to us to help with Kristin's cough.............." (No one had heard anyone coughing since arriving at our house. Where's a good cough when you need one?!)

My attempted explanation sounded weak at best!

"It's okay, Pastor Sheri." "Oh, don't worry. We understand!" Everyone started talking at once. "We cook with wine at our house." (You may. But not many people use hard liquor in anything other than Christmas fruitcake! And that's weeks away.)

Best comment? "I loved it! You should have seen your face!!"


We cleaned up the pungent mess. Sat down to pray over our meal (and over the newly revealed struggle of the pastor's wife) and enjoyed several more rounds of laughter! Which is even better medicine than honey, lemon and whiskey concoctions.

Oh, and the salt in the small bowl? Yep, you guessed it. That got mistaken for sugar and added to someone's coffee after dinner!

Now you know why I chose to title this post, "Naked and Unashamed".

Friends came to our house yesterday and found me very vulnerable. Nothing hidden. No embarrassment left unexplored.

But thankfully, we already had a good relationship with everyone crowded around that table. So even though yesterday wasn't a Martha Stewart Moment for me. I didn't have to be ashamed!

Besides, it'll make a great story when I speak at the pastor's wives conference this week! They'll laugh and cover their faces in empathy; then laugh some more. And that's a win!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best

Have you ever heard the song that starts, "Life's simple pleasures are the best....."? It had a catchy, easy melody line and was popular in the 70's. I thought it was a song by B.J. Thomas or maybe even an early Barry Manilow.

Not So!

I googled the little number to identify the artist. Come to find out, it was actually a commercial jingle written for - are you ready for this, Van Camp's Pork and Beans!

(Yes, I'm laughing out loud. Those of you over 40 should google it too. It will definitely take you right back to the days of mini skirts, maxi dresses, bell bottoms, big hair and whatever else marked the 70's for you!)

"Life's simple pleasures are the best! All the little things that make you smile and glow....all the things you know."

I sang it constantly as a teenager. And I've sung it through the years or quoted it at times that were both appropriate and in-appropriate. Mostly because I'm just geared that way!

But as I prepared to write today, the truth of the little song just kept pressing to the front of my thinking. So I thought I'd record a few of the simple pleasures that make me most happy.

Simple Pleasures for Sheri:
  • Finding the timeless dress I tried on in June on the sale rack in September for 75% off!
  • Feeling a cool breeze on my face that just says, "You're alive! Be appreciative!"
  • Putting away the last article of clean laundry.
  • Comfortable pj's and fresh sheets.
  • A genuine, unexpected hug.
  • Spencer's recognition smile! "Oh, it's you, Nana! Hi!"
  • Holding hands.
  • Gracie (or even Bella) snuggling close, then sighing contentedly.
  • Everyone at the dinner table laughing and talking over one another.
  • Delivering a sermon that causes someone to nod with understanding.
  • A good cup of hot tea!
  • Crafting the perfect to do list; then crossing off the final item.
  • Having my favorite coffee cup and tea cup in the cabinet on the same morning. (They often end up in the car traveling to or from the office.)
  • Seasonal smells - fresh cut grass, burning leaves, apple cider.
  • A bowl of vegetable soup while snowed in. (A throw back to NC days.)
  • Laughing with a friend.
  • Catching a brilliant sunrise or sunset.
  • Holding hands, hugging, snuggling. (They bear repeating.)
Monday afternoon I drove home from the office completely exhausted! It had been a long day and I knew I was coming home to a messy house. (Insert major amounts of sighing here.)

Imagine my shock and surprise when I walked into a house that had apparently been visited by a cleaning genie! Everything was put away; dusted; organized; vacuumed or swept.

The effect was crowned by a bouquet of fresh fall flowers that graced the dining room table.

Apparently Kristin had come home with the two year old she nannies and decided to leave a surprise for Mom. (With three adults in the house, we all have our areas of cleaning responsibility. Kristin's is seldom ever out of order. My tasks are a little different story.)

Such a simple gift. So lavishly given. So greatly appreciated.

What are the simple pleasures that are best in your life? They matter. Be sure to mark them.

(And, I'd love to hear about a few.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A First

Resplendent! No other word to describe it - the evening was simply Resplendent!

(Some of you already know that one of my favorite words in the English language is "resplendent". But I use it sparingly in order to savor its specialness. Somewhat like visiting Cheesecake Factory or going on a dress up date. Or going on a dress up date TO Cheesecake Factory!! But I digress.)

To what marvelous occurrence would I be referring?

Joy asked if I could babysit Spencer on Tuesday evening!

I know, sounds rather anti-climactic but wait. It was the very first time EVER for Nana and the Young Prince to spend an evening alone!

No Poppa. No Mom or Dad. Not even a single adoring aunt.

Just Nana and the boy!

I was giddy with excitement and more than a little nervous. But the evening was a smashing success! And I sincerely hope for an encore performance.

He'll be eight months old next week. (I know, I can't believe it either.) And he just keeps finding new ways to capture a heart that already belongs solely to him. (Uh, that would be mine!)

When those huge blue eyes lock on to my brown ones and his little face lights up with unfettered delight, I become a veritable puddle of, of..............well, there just isn't a word descriptive enough!

Joy dropped him by around 5:45; along with all the necessary child-care items. Car seat. Stroller. Booster seat. Diaper Bag. Toys. Special food. Sippy cup. Rubberized spoon. She handles motherhood with such ease! Which is also why there have been so few baby-sitting opportunities.

She gave instruction. Kissed the boy. And took off for her meeting.

Spencer sat propped in the smushie corner of my leather couch like some land mogul. He looked up at me; flashed a grin that could light Orlando. And we were on!

We talked. We sat outside on the swing. We greeted the neighbors. We ate dinner. We read. We went for a stroller ride. We jiggled in the car seat until we fell asleep. Then we almost created a dog rug when Bella started barking and woke the sleeping baby!

And mostly - we sang!

Joy and John must sing to him all the time. It doesn't matter how dissatisfied he may be. How sleepy. How hungry. How wet. How bored. How uncomfortable. Start singing and he'll flash that show-stopping smile every time!

(In moments of severe distress, the smile will appear only for a second. But no matter how briefly, you can count on seeing it. One more mark to his grandparents of extreme brilliance! Isn't that true, Linda?)

I must mention that the first baby-sitting honor went to the NY grands - John and Linda. Joy and John try to give them as many "firsts" as possible since they live so far away. And we cheer that policy exuberantly!

I didn't get any pictures. Not enough time.

And the evening was over far too quickly. But there was no choking. No crying that couldn't be quelled. No severe trauma of any sort. So I guess we did okay.

And I don't need a Polaroid-anything to help picture this event again and again. Such resplendence creates its own "heart picture" that lives forever!

Huge, contented Sigh!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Writing for this blog is such a joyful thing in my life!

Some days the post just rambles and reports. But on other days (like today) I feel absolutely compelled to write. Almost like there is a message of encouragement waiting to burst out for someone who needs it.

I love the book of Isaiah!

When I attended SEU - almost 100 years ago now - I waited until my last semester to take the class on Isaiah. (You're right, I was an education major. But I graduated with a Bible major too.)

I could hardly wait to have my favorite book dissected, examined and explained by the professor - Greek was his native tongue! At long last I would understand the nuances of the book that inspired the creation of Handel's "Messiah"; the herald of every Christmas season.

Unfortunately, the only available spot was an evening course (not my most coherent time.) The professor was in a season of personal crisis. AND there was a handsome pastoral major sitting next to me who kept writing notes, cracking jokes and distracting me with his southern charm!

What's a girl to do?

I decided to marry the pastoral major and make the study of Isaiah a life-long project.

As I read yesterday, I came to some of my favorite verses and joy started bubbling.
  • 40:1 "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."
  • 40:11 " he tends his flock like a shepherd...."
  • 40:27 "Why do you way is hidden from the cause is disregarded?" (The answer to this is in verses 28-31. AMAZING!)
  • 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Regular readers know that I seldom put whole scriptures in my blog. I don't want anyone to feel I'm preaching at them. But these HAD to be included today! And I really hope you'll search out the others on your own.

Now here's the rest of the story.

Some prayer concerns were weighing on me so I stopped to soak in the hope and encouragement of these passages that are now like familiar friends to me.

These verses have spoken to my heart during MANY different seasons of my life:
  • 40:11 was my life preserver while my girls were tiny and I had no time to study.
  • We memorized 41:10 as part of home school while Meagan still had a little girl lisp.
  • 40:27 has served to remind me again and again that God knows where I am. Always. And in ALL WAYS!

I ended my devotional time feeling that the Lord had met me in a special way. He knew right where I was. Even though my literal location was rather mundane - on the love seat with Gracie snuggled close and Bella snoring at my feet. He had heard my heart cry.

But that wasn't the end of it.

With my "Day Off" list completed and cleaning supplies in hand, I flipped on the Christian music station for background and started in on the bathroom with a vengeance. Somewhere between scrubbing the shower stall and rinsing the sink, a vaguely familiar melody wafted into the bathroom and caught my ear.

I stopped and walked into the living room to hear better. The station was playing a remix of a solo I sang almost twenty years ago, "....not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This mountain shall be removed! What I've promised shall be done!"

My shock was total. His message unmistakable.

Of all the times I've listened to that station, I've never heard that song played.

When I get to control the volume, music plays rather softly. So I seldom register what's playing when I'm in another room.

But the Lord made SURE I heard this song!

I stood in the middle of the living room wearing my bright yellow cleaning gloves; a scrub brush in one hand and Comet in the other. Tears pooled and goose bumps rose. This was a holy moment and I knew it.

God had prepared my heart earlier with scriptures that are part of my history. Scriptures that remind me of past miracles.

Then He orchestrated a play list so that a song of my past would come into my present and say once again, "Not only do I know where you are. I want you to know that I'm right here with you!"

And that, dear readers is the greater comfort!

Now you see why I'm so eager to write about this. Someone else must need the truth today!

Yes, He knows all about your present situation. But even better, He is WITH you! His promises will be fulfilled in your life. And none of this depends on your might or your power. It's by His Spirit!

He is HERE! And that's all we need to know!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall in Florida

Two more days and fall will officially arrive!

Here in FL that means "Love-Bug Season"; which has already begun. What? You're not familiar with love-bug season? Oh let me enlighten you, please!

Tiny black bodies with red heads are attached to wings and to one another. They silently fly about crashing into everything in their path. Windows, doorways, faces of pedestrians - most notably, grills of cars! They create a truly horrific mess!

I know what it is to clean salt off your car after several weeks of snow. I know what it is to clean mud off your car after weeks of rain and living on a dirt road. But let me tell you, I don't think anything compares to cleaning love-bugs off a car during the three weeks of love-bug season.

Home remedies are abundant. Such as: "Spray the grill with PAM and the bugs will slide right off!" "WD-40! It keeps the grill squeaky clean!" "Dawn dish detergent. You can clean anything with a drop of Dawn!"

Some ingenious and disgusted FL resident even created - get ready for this - a CAR BRA! Yes, you read that correctly. It is indeed possible to purchase a bra for the front of your car.

The inventor of the car bra (whose name I couldn't readily locate; wonder why?) has made a lot of money on these contraptions. You see them all the time down here. A large piece of canvas-type fabric covering the front grill and bumper. The CAR BRA!

That's all I have to say about that!!

I've dashed outside to catch the fabulous pinks and purples of this morning's sunrise. It's humid and sticky. But that's FL in late September.

Sometimes I miss the cool air and fantastic colors of NC during this season. There's nothing quite like an evening walk in the brisk air of early fall. A light jacket, cold hands, the smell of leaves burning, rosy cheeks on kids playing tag, hot vegetable soup!

But Frank and I know we're right where we're supposed to be. Even with the humidity and love-bugs!

That may be a less enjoyable season change; but it's our season change. And we're stickin' with it!

I'd love to hear about your favorite fall traditions and stories............

(PS - just in case you don't already read Becky's blog ( please check it out today. It's Wedding Wednesday and she has promised more pictures of the most delightful bride and groom! Excuse my prejudice, please. Smile.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Big Toe Lesson

This weekend found me doing two of my FAVORITE things - teaching and being taught!

Frank and I are part of the Assemblies of God, Peninsular Florida District. Every fall our district leadership sponsors a massive training weekend for pastors and church leaders. Over 1,200 gathered this year.

Our guest speaker, Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas, brought powerful challenges Friday night and Saturday morning. We had an opening plenary session which highlighted five of our most outstanding ministers. (My friend, Deanna, was one of those. You go, girl!)

In addition to these services, multiple workshops covered everything from children to retirees and all ministry areas in between. It was my privilege to teach a workshop entitled, "Ministering with My Best Friend". As one who works alongside "my best friend" every day, I guess they thought I could address the subject with expertise.

So of course, Frank and I argued several times in the week leading up to me teaching! Sigh.

About what? I don't know.

Why? Who can fathom.

Did it accomplish anything? Not a thing!

But our struggle made for a great illustration that had people belly laughing as I described us "letting the sun go down" before we reconciled:

"I was right and Frank (mistakenly) thought he was right. We continued to disagree right up until bedtime. I know the Bible says don't let the sun go down on your anger. We teach marriage seminars, for heaven's sake. I know these things!

But we were both waiting for the other to come to their senses and apologize!

I climbed into bed, turned my back to him in the coldest fashion I could create and hooked my big toe on the edge of the mattress. All my dramatics had no effect because he was doing the same thing on the other side of the bed!"

You'll be relieved to know that eventually we got it worked out. And my big toe is once again contentedly rubbing the top of his foot while we drift off to sleep; as it should be.

You would think that after all these years of teaching and preaching, I wouldn't fall prey to such temptations. (Like arguing with my "best friend" just before teaching on how to work peacefully with my "best friend". Smile.)

Unfortunately, I often DO forget to keep my guard up. But when I fail, I try to repent quickly (more quickly than I did this week) and set things back in order.

Letting bitterness germinate is too expensive!

Because of God's abundant grace and Frank's forgiveness, I was able to teach freely. (It's a cardinal rule for us that we don't speak into the lives of other people if we aren't on the page with one another.)

Scores of ministry couples were represented in the workshop. We all laughed heartily, nodded knowingly, and prayed diligently that God would help us walk as truthful examples before those we're privileged to lead.

As Frank and I worked together on dinner last night, he gave me a quick little kiss. "I like 'together' much better than 'apart', don't you?" Who said it doesn't matter.

The important thing is that we both know 'together' takes effort. 'Apart' will happen naturally because all human beings are basically selfish. We also know we're committed to living 'together' instead of 'apart'. 'Together' helps us grow; 'apart' feeds immaturity. And we truly love the outcome of 'together'; so we'll keep making the effort.

That's enough to make anyone's big toe smile.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's the Use?

Are garages for cars or for STUFF?

This simple question has perplexed me for many years now. True, I'm easily entertained. But I've found the various methods for parking cars in home garages rather interesting:

  • There's the tennis ball method. Savvy home-owners suspend a brightly colored tennis ball from the ceiling by a string. Once the meticulously placed orb taps the windshield, the driver is alerted. They have now reached the exact spot that will allow for parking AND closing the massive door.
  • There's the tire-tap method. Less motivated home-owners place a log or board in the middle of the garage floor. The driver pulls into the garage inching forward until they tap the wooden warning system. At this point they stomp on the brakes.
  • There's the retiree method. This home-owner, a recently retired, former CEO has far too much time on his hands. He listens attentively for the opening of the garage door at which time he hits mute on the re-run of "The Waltons" and dashes to the garage. He begins motioning and yelling until his poor, flustered wife throws the car in park, steps out and invites him to park it where he wants it!
I've observed several other fail-safe methods for avoiding the creation of a "rear exit doorway" the size of your sedan. These are just my three favorites.

A walk around our neighborhood this evening brought this controversy back to mind. I started noticing how many of our neighbors use their garage for parking and how many (like us) feel that the main purpose of a garage is to serve as a treasure chest for grown-ups.

The big shocker came for me the year after we moved into our current home. Our house sits opposite a young family with two little boys. They park their car and several motorized toys in their garage. They are garage-utilizing heroes!

It took twelve months for me to discover their secret - a three hundred square foot storage unit behind their home. Must admit, I felt slightly justified. Smile.

And so as I write this odd little post, I think of the bountiful blessings bursting forth from our barage. Oops - I meant garage. (Too much alliteration!)

My curiosity is piqued. What's the use of your garage? Parking or Storing? I look forward to hearing from you.............

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Map

Today we celebrate!

Amanda and Webb made it "home" yesterday from their honeymoon. Well, they made it to our house which is third on the list of their extended family homes. Arizona, North Carolina and Florida - a true "interstate relationship".

Because they did a destination wedding, our church family couldn't attend. So, Webb graciously consented to come back so Amanda could don her fabulous wedding gown and allow everyone at GGC to "OOOO!" and "AHHH!" as much as they'd like. (We will comment on how handsome he is in his wedding attire too. But the reception photo ops will revolve mostly around Amanda and the people she has touched while serving here.)

Their union serves as a testimony to many. This time last year, Amanda was convinced she would be single for several more years.

"When I'm in my thirties, someone will realize that marriage is about more than a dress size and they'll see me as the real prize God has made me to be." Smart girl. Smart man (Webb) to snatch her up before another could.

In six short months, the light dawned. The question was asked. Decisions made. Plans executed. Boxes packed. Marriage performed. Honeymoon completed. After the reception at GGC this afternoon, they will climb into Webb's truck and drive toward the beginning of the next season. No longer two - now one.

I firmly believe that life is all about moments. (I'm sure you've seen the phrase: "Life isn't about the number of breaths we take. It's about the moments that take our breath away.")

My moment at their wedding will forever be etched in my memory.

We were sitting with Amanda, Webb and their parents at the reception. Music played softly in the background. A gentle breeze filtered through the wedding tent. Voices mixed with laughter around us.

I looked at Amanda as she talked with her new father-in-law. Instead of a tiara, she had chosen a perfect white feather adornment that sat beautifully in the side of her fabulous curls. It was fluttering softly. Her smile was radiant!

And just as tears began to well up, she turned and made eye contact with me. Those sharp emerald eyes saying it all, "I'm so happy! This was the right decision. Thanks for the part you played in helping us get here. Please don't cry yet." So I didn't.

But today I will.

The reception will end around 3:00. We will help them get all their gifts in the truck. We'll stand in the parking lot with big smiles and wave excitedly as they drive away. We'll all cry, most likely.

But our hearts will be joyful; because we choose to focus on the blessing! God has done a great thing in helping those two find one another. They are perfect together. Amanda will care for him and Webb will protect her. It's the way He designed it.

Alicia Chole has a devotional entitled Pure Joy. One of her entries has been such an encouragement these past few days. "During transitions we uproot and replant our sense of purpose, value, and self. Between what was and what will be, we often feel vulnerable, uncertain, and exposed. Our map on this journey is a two-word sentence: "Follow Me!" We miss many a treasure when we try to avoid or rush through these seasons."

Isn't that so powerful?

As I reread your comments from my last post, I took time to drink in the strength and encouragement being offered. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You each brought a different element that bolstered me. I'm most appreciative.

Frank, Kristin and I got a very early start this morning - there's much to be done before Mr. and Mrs. Webb Hoggard enter the reception.

It will be a treasured moment. And then we'll journey on.

"Follow Me!" He leads us on to places of richness and growth. A loose paraphrase of Proverbs 3 says it well, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don't lean on your own understanding. In all 'the journey' acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."

That's a road map more reliable than Google ever hoped to create!