Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Predictability at its Best

I love my morning cup of coffee! And Frank bears total responsibility!

I was a tea drinker until he decided he would like an early-morning "coffee buddy". He kept looking at me with those big baby blues - how's a girl to resist? So I learned to drink coffee.

Now, I'm pretty much addicted I think.

But it's more than the shot of caffeine first thing each morning. It's the ritual. The predictability.

Most mornings, Frank wakes earlier than me. So the pot sits ready and all I have to do is hit the right button. Viola! Perfect brew.

Even on days when I make the coffee it's pretty much the same. This seems to work the same with any operator. Put in the right elements; expect the desired results:
  • Six cups of filtered water.
  • Three scoops of Maxwell house.
  • Wait thirty seconds.
  • Morning Comfort!!
Consistent! Dependable! Exactly the same every time! CONSTANT! Smile.

(I once knew a lady who enjoyed this feeling while doing math problems. "One plus one always equals two," she said. Yeah, math is a foreign language to me! So I'll stick with coffee.)

Oddly enough as much as things have progressed, it's still necessary for me to add the right elements before I expect the desired results. And no one thinks that odd.

This morning I was reminded how that is repeated in our lives. (You knew an application was coming, didn't you? Smile.)

I talk with so many young moms who wonder how they are supposed to raise their children to love God in this crazy world. Well, believe it or not, providing a foundation of faith and trust is actually pretty predictable.

The secret is found in the most concise child-rearing manual I've ever seen.

Deuteronomy 6 gives the necessary information. If we take time to add the proper elements we'll get the desired result:
  • Live for God the way you want your children to.
  • Talk about Him in the mornings and evenings.
  • Point out His goodness while on the run.
  • Take every opportunity to remind them of His love.
Prayer adds the power to get things rolling. Wait with expectancy......enjoy the desired result!

I know. I know. This sounds overly simplistic - especially on a Tuesday morning. And there are many variables to factor!

But sometimes we over-complicate what God meant to be straight-forward.

One of my favorite thoughts is found in the Presbyterian catechism: "The chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever."
Simple? Yes.
Profound? Definitely.
Possible? Totally!

Just a thought for you this morning as we enjoy that cup of coffee together.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


My goodness, life lived fully has its extremes, doesn't it?!

Last night found me in the "nose bleed" section of the St. Pete Times Forum. We had snagged cheap tickets and all went to see the Tampa Bay Lightening play ice hockey!!

This afternoon I will spend several hours combing stores in Orlando for just the right bridesmaids dresses!!

Must admit, I'm much more comfortable with the second adventure than the first. Smile.

Raising three daughters afforded precious few opportunities for venturing into sports arenas of any sort. You would have laughed out loud had you seen me last night -
  • holding tightly to Frank as I cautiously climbed the steep stairs to the very top of the seating area.
  • jumping out of the tiny seat when some nut case blew an air horn repeatedly after every point scored.
  • putting on a sweatshirt - power surging - taking off the sweatshirt - freezing - putting on the sweatshirt.......
  • asking a million questions about a game I've never before seen.
  • jumping up to cheer, then grabbing Frank because I thought I was falling!
Come to think of it, the best part of the evening from my perspective was being with Frank. Holding his hand; snuggling up close; having him whisper in my ear. Even if he was only explaining the plays. Smile.

Oh yeah, that and the post-game trip to Krispy Kreme just in time for hot glazed doughnuts! A truly resplendent evening.

This morning found me waking from a dream about a precious church member and praying diligently before I could even get fully awake. All part of life in contrast.

Hockey games and bridesmaids dresses.
Baby smiles and dirty diapers.
Fabulous family dinner and unbelievably messy kitchen.
Engagements and transitions.
Laughter and tears.
Joy and sorrow.

Life best lived is in constant motion and contrast. It's how we're geared. It's how we mark the highs and lows. It's just how things are!

I sat with Joy at Shriner's hospital last week and tried to help absorb information she and John will need in about twelve months. Our own situation seemed pretty overwhelming until we took time to observe the other children in the massive waiting area.

Casts, leg braces, missing limbs. Huge smiles, laughter, pink hair bows, loud car sounds. Stark contrast. LIFE!!

Not sure how I got from ice hockey to life issues except for this........
If you find yourself trying to process massive "contrasts" today, be encouraged dear reader. You are NOT alone! Smile.

You probably are simply living life fully. And bear in mind, it's not all as bleak as it may seem nor are the high's the only part to be desired. Life best lived is a blend of it all; every single contrast!

Actually, a friend of mine named Paul said it best, "God works all things together for our good." (There's my whole post in one sentence. No wonder he is a best selling writer! Smile.)

There is help available for us as we navigate and process this journey called LIFE. Our Father. Our Friends. His Word. Prayer.

It's the hand we cling to during uncertain climbs. It's the voice that whispers needed instruction when we don't understand. It's the steadying force when we feel we're falling. It's the hug of compassion when we cry. And the smile of hope when we rejoice.

Contrast is certain. Loneliness is optional.

May your Sabbath be blessed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Argument FOR Magazines

My Better Homes and Gardens magazine arrived in the mail this week!

The cover this month sports a bright green background with brilliant pink and white flowers in the foreground. A veritable spring, color-feast for winter-starved eyes.

I know full well that I should transition to a Kindle (or some such) for magazine reading. I'm aware of the arguments against "hard copy" newspapers, newsletters, and so forth.

But every month when my BHG arrives, an uncontrollable smile spreads across my face! Over the next thirty days: I flip the pages, peruse the articles, absorb new ideas.

AND I feel loved.

What?! Wait a minute. How can a magazine make anyone feel loved?

Well, you see, it just so happens that my monthly copy of BHG is a gift from my sweet mother-in-law, Joyce! Mom Hawley has always enjoyed reading magazines. (I think this actually developed because she couldn't say no to the school kids who annually knocked on her door selling them! Smile.)

At any rate, Mom noticed once how much I enjoyed her copies of BHG. That Christmas, she bought an extra subscription as one of my gifts. And a tradition was born.

We've lived in FL for almost six years now. And every month, just like clockwork, a BHG magazine arrives in my mailbox.

Each one is filled with gardening ideas, decorating tips, fabulous recipes, etc. But MY copy contains something more.

Tucked in those colorful pages I find hidden this message, "Sheri, someone in Dunn, NC loves you. This lady has loved you for over thirty years just like one of her own. She wants you to know that on a regular basis."

Can't get that from a Kindle!

I love you too, Mom!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blond Baby Jesus

I know; I know! The title is a tease, right?

Explanation found here:

On Saturday, I sat in a beautiful church downtown that has fabulous stained glass windows. Because I'm a lover of stained glass, I devoured every detail of the windows (while also focusing on the speakers, of course! Smile.)

A total of eight windows reaching from floor to cathedral ceiling graced the traditional sanctuary. The resplendent colors painted scenes like: Moses on the mountain, Jesus in the temple, the Resurrection and so on.

But as I went back over the scenes (such beauty begs to be studied again and again) I suddenly found myself chuckling quietly. The artists, who obviously had given great care to necessary details in each piece, had overlooked one important point of "historical inaccuracy" in the Nativity.

They created a stunning BLOND baby Jesus!

Hadn't any of them read that Jesus was born a Jewish child? Very few blond-haired, blue-eyed babies in that lineage!

I've always loved the Christmas carol, "Some children see Him......" Have you heard it? The song beautifully describes how children "see" Jesus like themselves. "Some see the baby lily white; almond-eyed; tanned and brown, etc."

Seems like the kind of Christmas carol Jesus himself would enjoy.

One of the most exciting parts of Friend's Day yesterday at church was getting to observe the colorful diversity of our congregation. Asian, Hispanic, African American, Caucasian........we all worshiped together yesterday. Focusing solely on Jesus. Blending our hearts, voices, prayers, and colors in a mosaic for His enjoyment.

In many ways, we became a living stained glass window through which our world can better see The Artist of Life.

Somehow I think that's what the baby in the manger originally intented, don't you? Smile.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three for the Price of One

So many things I'd love to share with you today.

Pondering. Pondering. Pondering. Which topic should I talk about?

Our wedding venue search?
Meagan is diligently searching on land, sea and sky (that would be 'on-line') for the perfect location.

Her heart's desire is an outdoor ceremony to be followed by the party of the century. This young lady has laughed her way through most of her twenty-three years - both good and bad. And she wants the reception to fully reflect that.

Must say that as the M.O.B., I took great delight in Nathan's response yesterday when she asked him to join her in checking out a potential site.

He walked beside her offering genuine interest in what couldn't have interested him less. Shaking hands, nodding, asking questions, making eye contact. No sighing, no moaning, no impatient tapping.

Only after we left did I learn that he had passed up time with a buddy to accompany his little sweetheart. Ah, young love. That kind of unselfish love really WILL last a lifetime!

Our upcoming "Friend's Day" at GGC?
This Sunday will be our annual Friend's Day at Garden Grove Church and we have been scurrying to get things ready. Thankfully rain is not in the forecast.

But our church family continues to grow.

So new questions arise: Where do we stage the fabulous food our ladies are famous for? Where do we seat everyone? What games will we have? Where do we park everyone? Are there enough name tags? Do we have enough tents for outside? Is everyone ready to "show themselves friendly"?

Good problems to solve!

The drain dilemma?
Funny little story.

I've confessed that I am an unorganized house keeper. But I am NOT nasty! There is a HUGE difference!

We spent two days this week trying to determine the origination point of a terrible smell emanating from the garbage disposal. It sounded very much as though the disposal (which is new) had ceased operating.

I poured bleach! I used baking soda! I scrubbed, scoured, and scowled.......all to no avail!

The odor laughed at my futile attempts to eradicate it. And it even went so far as to begin to invade the air space around the entire sink area!

"Stupid, faulty disposal," I complained to all who would listen.

That's when Frank got involved.

We came home from church Wednesday night, exhausted but determined. That odor was going down! (Pun totally intended! Smile.)

Frank took stock of the situation in typical male fashion. He poked. He prodded. He tested said disposal. He sniffed. He snorted at the clear and present danger!

And in one fell swoop - he identified the source of the trouble, conquered said trouble and gloried in the cheering of his thankful and adoring wife.

(Ummm. Seems the smell wasn't coming from the disposal at all. It was actually something in the drain of the other sink. I hadn't even considered that. [Insert sheepish grin.] Quick use of a simple, chemical free cleaner took care of everything. Thank the Lord for spouses who think outside the box!)

Application of the preceding story?

Very often the problems of our lives may be originating from a source we haven't previously considered.

I was ready to remove the new garbage disposal because I couldn't imagine such an odor coming from anywhere else!

Sometimes we need to allow a friend to examine our trouble and lovingly offer a different perspective from the one we've been touting.

Maybe the anger and frustration you've been carrying around aren't the result of that boss or co-worker. It may not even be the fault of a family member.

As a friend, may I lovingly suggest another perspective? Look inside.

Allow the One who knows us best to use His powerful cleansers to get rid of any odoriferous elements we've been hiding. Spring is a great time for purging our hearts too!

Well, look. I've hit all three topics I was pondering in one post. Thanks for stopping by - blessings for your week-end!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Make It a Habit

Habits affect us.

Good habits impact us in good ways.

That's why it's so important to intentionally develop good habits.

(I could stop right there for today. But, as always, a good story goes with this observation.)

Most of you know that we are gearing up to become "Wedding Central" around the Hawley house. The initial excitement of the engagement; the squealing; the jumping up and down; the phone calls; the facebook status changing; the showing of the ring.............. All these things have taken place and NOW (cue loud reverberation) the planning begins.

Meagan's birthday is December 20th. Most years we tried to celebrate on October 20th so people would actually come to her party. Smile. The parental wedding anniversary is marked on December 30th. And of course, Christmas falls in there too.

She has spent her life observing that things get a bit squished/short-changed when celebrated near the end of the year.

Sooooo, she had rather strong feelings against planning a wedding for late fall or early winter. (Nathan's birthday is in September.)

July seemed the best time in her thinking. In fact, she and Nathan were pretty settled on July 23th. Until...........we started searching out venues to accommodate an outdoor ceremony; in FL; in July; with more than 150 guests!

Panic started pushing in around the edges.

Enter lifetime habit.

Meagan has a habit of stopping in the middle of a panic moment and looking up scripture on the matter at hand. This serves a dual purpose:
  • re-directing focus
  • feeding better thinking
So yesterday afternoon, she took a few precious planning moments and starting looking for scriptures on JOY. She didn't want to miss the joy of planning her wedding by worrying over every single individual she needed to please and every detail she needed to work out. (Who can do all that anyway?! Smile.)

In the midst of her "copying and pasting" this beautiful kiss from heaven showed up from the hidden recesses of II Chronicles -

".....on the twenty-third day of the seventh month, he sent the people to their homes joyful and glad in heart for the good things the lord had done......"

(I realize the Jewish calendar was different but for us that meant - JULY 23RD! Smile.)

You can not make up such as this!!

Habits affect us.

Good habits impact us in good ways.

Choose to start a good habit - you may need it down the road.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Interstate 95 is, for our family, more than a main corridor for the eastern sea board!

(For those unfamiliar with this highway, it runs the length of the east from FL to NY and beyond.)

During our years as evangelists, I-95 was the starting point for most of our journeys. It has also served for decades as a ribbon connecting family living in FL to family living in NC. Mom and Dad Hawley live just off the first exit there in the great metropolis of Dunn.

And who knew that we would also need this thoroughfare for connecting us to the Schreck family in Poughkeepsie, NY?!

Now, life moves on and soon another part of our family will live two hours east of I-95 in Manteo, NC. (That would be the Smith family, of course.)

So it was that this morning I texted two of my precious daughters. One on I-95 headed south and the other on I-95 headed north.

(Meagan and Nathan - traveling back from Manteo. Joy, John and Spencer - journeying toward Poughkeepsie. After they stop to see Grandma and Grandpa Hawley, of course! Smile.)

I texted Joy around 6:00 AM to see if they had made it safely to Dunn. (Overnight road trips seem to work better with children.) They were all getting ready for a much needed nap. We talked briefly about how odd it was that she and Meagan were both traveling the same road in opposite directions.

"What happened to the days when we told our three little blonds, 'Time to go, girls. Hop in the truck!' and we all hit the road together?" I asked.

"We've all grown up, Mom. I miss those days. Fun Times!" she texted back.

"Truth is, these are fun times too, Sweetie. Just different."

Yesterday while Joy tried to do laundry and pack, I did the babysitting. What a delightful trade-off! She had use of both hands and I got to snuggle! Win/Win.

I did the walk-and-jiggle; utilizing my nana-roll, of course. Smile. And finally young Mr. Schreck dozed off allowing me several delicious moments to study his features and ponder.

He is almost a miniature version of his handsome dad, John. But every so often I catch a glimpse of my own little Joy in his face. And in that moment, I'm twenty-five years old again; filled with wonder at new life!

I've known women who ache for a return to those days. Women who frequently and loudly lament - oh, how I wish I could go back to when they were just babies.

But many years ago, the Lord helped me to understand the importance of living in the moment - contentedly!

We can waste valuable time longing for yesterday and fearing tomorrow! (Wow, that's pretty good. Think I'll write that in the back of my Bible. Smile.)

Contentment serves like I-95. It connects us to the joy of yesterday while helping us journey on to the fulfillment of tomorrow. The critical point? We must choose to travel.

God promises to order our footsteps not our sitting down. Smile.

All those trips up and down I-95 and we had no idea that two of the young men we prayed for were essentially connected to us already.

Hmmmm. God never wastes anything, does He?!

Whether your travels today are literal or emotional, may they be abundantly blessed with contentment!

P.S. I have a HUGE list of things that to accomplish today. But my wonderful husband volunteered to take a chunk of those so I could blog. Thanks for the support, Sweetheart!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Full Friday

Some Fridays we have to work very hard to make it feel like a day off! Smile.

And I'll readily admit to you, dear readers that my thoughts today are incredibly random.

I woke early to the horrible news of the tsunami that has devastated Japan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people impacted by such tragedy.

But before 9 AM, I had also learned of emotional tsunamis hitting the lives of several people I love and care about so very much.

The Red Cross, the U.N., the military, all the humanitarian aide of the world combined couldn't begin to offer the help/comfort needed by these dear friends.

So, I pray!

Sometimes that seems totally inadequate. My heart hurts with my friends and I want to rush to their aid. Prepare a meal. Fix the situation. Facilitate healing. Beat up an offending party! (Wait, are pastor's wives allowed to say that out loud?! Smile.)


But none of those options are mine. The one thing I can do is talk to the Father about the ones hurting and remind myself of a few important points:
  • He loves them even more than I do!
  • He warned about trouble in this world. But encouraged us to "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!"
  • He promises to hear when we call!
  • He is the only One able to offer true help/comfort!
  • He constantly watches for opportunities to demonstrate His love!
And when all is said and done, hope is found in thoughts like these.

Frank and I were privileged to meet Rev. Franklin Graham on Wednesday. What an incredible honor just to shake his hand and speak a few words with him.

His countenance was sharp and his voice exuded quiet humility. You just knew, this is a man who understands his role in the kingdom of God.

He has surely seen some of the most horrific conditions of our world. And his upbringing charged him with a desire to help. But even the most compassionate among us can only do so much - the rest is up to God.

This is by no means a license to do nothing!

But real peace is found in doing what we can, then trusting that God will handle the rest with HIS wisdom.

Didn't mean to make this a sermon by any means. However just because I can't go to Japan and wrap a blanket around the shoulders of a broken member of humanity, doesn't mean I have NO way to help.

I can pray! Won't you join me?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nana-roll Dilemma

Spencer loves being outdoors.

(Just in case you're new to "Embrace the Grace", Spencer would be the first installment of the Schreck-Hawley lineage. Our amazing grandson!)

It has been reported that even when he works up a really good cry - which is rare, I assure you - stepping outdoors silences him almost immediately.

So yesterday it was Nana's turn to employ the "walk-and-jiggle" in the back yard. (No, that isn't a new brand of infant carrier.)

It's the old-fashioned version of comforting. Snuggle crying baby, walk around the yard, sing, bounce, try not to topple over. Repeat until baby gets bored and stops crying. Return baby to sleep-deprived parents who say, "How ever did you manage that?!" Smile.

I've discovered unused muscles that long ago thought they were safely retired. Not anymore!

And I've discovered that God in His foresight provided me with a most useful Nana-roll!

"A what?!" you ask.


(If you're over 50, perhaps you have one as well and just weren't aware of its purpose.)

My Nana-roll is located just above my waste line and is the perfect spot for parking a baby behind upon.

As I worked on my "walk-and-jiggle" form yesterday, I realized that the thing I've despised; the part of my maturing body that I've tried to eradicate; the additional roll of "love" that I've camouflaged, is there for a reason!

Grandmas need these rolls in order to properly snuggle, nurture and spoil their grandchildren.

(I will, however, draw the line when Spencer asks to play with any extra skin around my neck or on the back of my arm. That's just wrong!)

So, I titled this post Nana-roll Dilemma because I'm faced with a real problem.

It's true that I'm now a Nana and very happy in that role. But I'm also soon to be M.O.B. - "Mother of the Bride" again. And you know the kind of dress Diane Keaton wore in the movie Father of the Bride.

Unfortunately, current M.O.B. fashions do NOT make allowances for Nana-rolls! Unless of course I choose some droopy, mu-mu-esque something or other.

I'm walking daily and watching my caloric intake diligently. But while Frank wants a cutsie M.O.B. as his date for the wedding, Spencer needs a regular sort of Nana with the necessary "Nana-roll" intact!

What's a girl to do?!

Any suggestions or thoughts you may have on this topic will be greatly appreciated! Smile.

I'll close with a portion of scripture that was most timely for me early this morning. And as I've pondered it, I felt that there may be one or more readers who would benefit from this same reminder.

"The Lord answered Moses, 'Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.' " That's Numbers 11:23, just in case you need to underline it like I did! Have a great day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Things

Here you go:

1. Becky Smith (of "Smithellaneous" fame) linked my rather lengthy account of the engaging of our two offspring to her highly acclaimed blog. She encouraged her many readers to indulge us both by taking in every last word.

They did just that! And many left comments. (Comments are like sweet nectar to the hummingbird-heart of every blogger.) I eagerly clicked on the comment section and found that "Bec" from SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA had read my post.

(Now, I would have supposed that Bec was visiting a friend in TN or NC or FL but she said - right on her comment - ".....here I sit in Sydney (my emphasis), reading the story and tears are running down my face......")

I've always been curious about Australia and have dreamed about visiting some day. How amazing that through technology, my words have gotten there and have even elicited emotion! Wow!!

Thanks Bec for your kind comment!

2. To all my dear friends in the medical world:
  • Thank you for your hard work and diligence!
  • Thank you for studying and staying informed!
  • Thank you for genuinely caring about your patients!
However -
  • The rest of us do not have your experience nor your frame of reference.
  • Even the smallest of outpatient procedures can seem frightening to us.
  • If it involves: scalpels, needles, or nakedness be assured, I'm NOT comfortable! Smile.
I found myself the unwilling participant in just such a procedure Friday. Anxiety had built through the week and by Thursday evening, I was closing in on all out panic. We left for the hospital before daybreak Friday; completed all the necessary checking-in; then moved to the pre-surgery waiting area.

I should have suspected trouble when ten minutes before my procedure was scheduled to begin, they still hadn't called me back.

Frank walked to the desk and requested information.

"Oh, we thought Mrs. Hawley was already back here!" Not a good sign AT ALL!!

"Everything is okay, Mrs. Hawley. We'll get you right in. Just step into this freezer we call a bathroom. Take off every article of camouflage clothing. Put on this paper thin fabric we call a gown (leaving you totally exposed in the hinder parts). Walk out here where all the other terrified patients can stare at you. And oh, by the way, even though you've had nothing to drink since midnight - tinkle in this cup, won't you?"

SIGH! And again I say - S.I.G.H.!!

I never knew that inability to comply with such a simple request could leave me feeling like such a failure.

The knock at the door (like I was TWO) nearly reduced me to tears...... like a two year old. I had to shiver my way over to a gurney, get hooked up to an IV bag, and WAIT.

Someone asked if I wanted my husband to come back which helped. But you can totally hear when people stand by those curtains and softly say things like, "I know. I know! We are still waiting."

And it does NOT help when you step in and say things like, "Being nervous usually makes us want to go sooner!" "Did you try turning on the water?" "You've taken on half a bag of fluid, Mrs. Hawley." "The kidneys produce fluid even when we don't think they do!"

The final straw was the red-haired, male tech who peeked in while clutching the two curtains to either side of his pointy face and offered this comment in a sing-song voice, "Still haven't been able to tinkle, Mrs. Hawley?!"

If I'd had a metal bed pan, I would have hit him square in the head!

Well, success was finally mine. We moved on to the procedure room where someone gave me something that had me sound asleep in two point seven seconds. (Does that come in an over the counter form?!)

Lunch time found me home, cuddling on the couch with Gracie, enjoying copious quantities of doting by my precious husband.

And I guess that if it made you laugh out loud, it was worth it! Smile.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The (Real) Proposal

(Warning: Extremely L.O.N.G. post - but totally worth the read!)

Oh, the wrangling.

Oh, the story-telling.

Oh, the (dare I say it) out right DECEPTION - that went on around the Hawley household last week!

"To what could you possibly be referring?" you may ask. (So glad you did; that's why I blog. Smile.)

Well, it seems that a certain young man - Mr. Nathan Andrew Smith - had determined that February 26, 2011 would be the very best day to declare his undying love for a certain young woman - Ms. Meagan Elizabeth Hawley.

And after spending almost two years observing another man who is an absolute EXPERT at surprise execution - Mr. Frank Hawley - Nathan asked for help.

(Which made glad the heart of the daddy and exemplified a teachable heart in the boyfriend. BIG win all the way around; how many young men are confident enough to ask for help? See what I mean?! Smile.)

Besides, Nate also knows that Frank is the only other man in the world with his same perspective - "Nothing is too good for Meagan!"

"And so it was that the days were accomplished that she should be proposed to....." Oh, wait. That's from an even bigger story! (Can you tell I'm a little giddy with joy?)

By late January, Nathan had his ring.

An open weekend was identified and locked in.

That's when the planning commenced.

Nathan would tell Frank what he wanted and Frank would go to work trying to iron out the details. It really was such fun watching the two of them try to make surreptitious calls and text one another without being discovered.

Men accomplish incredible things when they put their minds to it!!

A friend of ours had recently purchased a home on a lake with a lovely gazebo right on the water's edge. Frank took Nathan to scout it out as a prospective location. Perfect!

Now to the plot.

Nathan wanted her to suspect nothing right up to the very moment. His plan - brilliantly concocted - was to take her on a series of dates through February that would throw her off.

(He had already told her sometime back that he would never propose on Valentine's Day. Too predictable for his taste.)

Restaurant dates have been rare for these two frugal young people. So three in one month set Meagan's head spinning.

"Do you think he'll propose tonight?" was a constant question while talking with her sisters.

Dad came alongside his co-conspirator and declared, "Nathan won't be asking any serious questions until he talks with me FIRST!"

Of course, Meagan had no way of knowing that that conversation had already taken place in December. Chivalry lives!

Nathan told Meagan that on Friday they were going on a pretty big date to Orlando. Dinner and a show.

She borrowed a lovely blouse from a friend. Her sisters were all on hand to do hair and make-up. (When I say sisters, that includes Amanda.) Nana gladly tended Spencer during the prep time. Pictures were taken before the departure of the handsome couple.

Everyone waited with baited breath for their return. (Except Dad and I; we knew there would be no ring on Friday night.)

Nathan (who slept on our couch that night) woke with a grin on his face Saturday morning. He said she was very quiet on the way home. The plot thickens.........

Saturday rolled in with all its activities. Frank and I made excuses and headed to the gazebo to hang lights; set up a CD player with pre-selected music; prepare a small table and chairs; etc., etc.

Our friends got into the fun with us. They pressure-washed the gazebo and checked the electrical outlets. Even their seven year old son (who was eagerly anticipating the big event) offered his opinion of what looked most romantic. Young love inspires us all.

Nathan picked Meagan up around 5:00 for dinner and pottery painting. (Meagan isn't much for movies.)

There was MUCH texting between Frank and Nate as we were the set-up crew in charge of candle-lighting, fruit and cheese tray delivering, and all other last minute ambiance creating.

The evening was lovely; conversation delightful; the meal delicious. Meagan had no idea what was going on!

Nate was totally pleased until............

Meagan became uncharacteristically detailed about her piece of pottery. Nathan said he'd never seen her so meticulous and S.L.O.W. before.

Meagan, on the other hand, couldn't understand Nathan's rush to complete the piece.

She told us later that she thought, "It's only 8:30. Are we getting old or what?!" Smile.

Thirty miles away, we blew out the candles a second time and re-covered the fruit tray.


They finished the pottery and Nathan proceeded to spin his web.

He explained that he appreciated Meagan's patience while he worked diligently saving for the engagement ring. "It shouldn't be much longer now," he said. (HeHeHe!)

"But I wanted to have some fun memories while we're waiting. One of them that I had for Valentine's Day wasn't ready until now. Please put on this blindfold and I'll take you there."

Meagan was a little put off with the idea of being blindfolded but the request came from the love of her life sooooooo she agreed.

Light the candles!

Nathan texted just as we expected their arrival to report that Meagan had asked to stop at McDonalds for a potty break.

Put out the candles.

Next Text: "Okay. We're on our way!"

Relight the candles! Turn on the CD! Run like crazy for the house - there they are!!!!!

We watched from inside the home of our friends as Nathan carefully transferred his "blinded" sweetheart to a golf cart and drove down to the lake.

He slowly walked her around the path; positioned her facing the gazebo; then knelt just out of our view in front of her before telling her to remove the blindfold.

(He told us later that he had the ring box already open.)

They were too far away for us to hear anything. But sound wasn't really needed as we watched her stand in shock; begin to jump up and down; do a little dance of joy; then bend over crying.

Tears filled every eye in the house, too. Sigh.

Mom and Dad slipped away without detection. The family went on to bed. We left them to their privacy and to fully enjoy the moment.

The sisters (who had no fore-warning) were summoned to our house around midnight and we all took an hour to squeal, admire the ring and listen to the story as they told it. (Well, mostly Meagan told it and Nathan beamed!)

The only thing left to say is:
"Well done, Mr. Smith. Well done!"