Saturday, April 30, 2011


(Small sigh.)

I much prefer starting my posts with a huge SMILE! Or even a pithy statement that gets us thinking.

But this morning, the last morning of April; a morning that indicates much must be sorted through and dealt with; a morning that holds the promise of a few tears along with laughter..... Well, this morning starts with a small sigh.

While watching all the royal festivities yesterday, there was a word used several times by the commentators that really stood out to me. They kept talking about DUTY.

The queen is loved by the people of Great Britain because she has lived her life as one who knows the duty associated with the privilege of her position.

Princess Anne, described as the "work horse" of the royal family has embraced her duty. William has always demonstrated a sense of duty; even as a child, some said. While Harry's life elicits adjectives like "naughty" and "cheeky", William 's life brings to mind words like "settled" and "protective".

I wondered at the two lives lived by the royal family.

The public life.

The Queen made over five hundred appearances last year. If she takes off weekends alone that averages two events per day. I wouldn't want to put on a hat and corset that often, would you? Smile.

The private life.

The moments they finally have behind closed doors. But even then, these people have servants and assistants watching their every move. To some it may sound glamorous - servants available every minute. To me it sounds maddening to know that you seldom ever have a moment of privacy.

Yes, two billion people tuned in to celebrate the wedding of William and Catherine. But that many people will also be curious about their every move as they try to honeymoon. Will she ever again be able to dash over to mum and dad's without an entourage in tow?

I pondered the real thoughts behind the gracious smiles and practiced waves.

Remember the line from Aladdin? The genie describes his dual life. (Cue - swirling clouds; lightening; loud thunder) "Phenomenal cosmic power! (Cue - sucking sound as genie squeezes into lamp) Itty bitty living space!" Smile.

And as I pondered such a dual life, the word "duty" could be heard again in my heart.

This morning I'm remembering that when people are entrusted with leadership they are also expected to understand duty. (And please understand, I'm referring to leaders of all sorts. If you're a parent, you're a leader!)

We all have times when what we want to do and what we need to do will collide like two opposing freight trains. And I'm thinking that much of the trouble in our world comes from too many members of the human family choosing selfishness over duty.

(I know. Heavy thoughts for a Saturday morning.)

But isn't that also what we celebrated last weekend with Easter? Even Jesus prayed, "If it's possible, let this cup pass from me. Still, not my will but yours." DUTY!

The greatest moment in all of human history revolves around the power of duty fulfilled. And as a result of that incredible choice - duty over selfishness - salvation and resurrection power are available in our lives.

His response to duty changed all of mankind!

(Makes me want to "pull up my bootstraps" for one more day! Smile.)

I don't have public appearances like the queen. But I do have daily opportunities to choose whether I will allow Jesus to be seen through me or whether it will be my ugly human nature showing up. Whew!

Maybe someone else is feeling the weight associated with leadership today. Be encouraged, dear friend. As you choose a hat and tighten that corset for one more "public appearance", grab the Armor of God too before heading out the door.

Let's choose to wrap ourselves in some humility and self control. Resurrection power won't be far behind.

My choice of duty over selfishness won't change all of mankind. But it most certainly will matter in the life of some man or woman I encounter today; don't you think? Smile.

I see you waving from here!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Wedding

So, yes. I did get up and watch the wedding! However, note that 5:30 is my normal wake-up time.

(Please read the remainder of this post with a decided British accent. Smile.)

It definitely seemed like a fairy tale; just as the pictorial clips indicate.

The pomp and circumstance. The trumpets. The Abbey. The choir. The uniforms. The dresses. The throngs of well-wishers. The horses and carriages. The flags. The tradition. The Queen Mum. The Balcony Kiss!

THE HATS! Oh my, I must have a HAT!! (Only NOT like the one Princess Beatrice was wearing. That was more like a statue or Mickey Mouse ears than a proper hat. Smile.)

Something about a wedding always elicits a smile and warm sentiment. The wedding of William and Kate is no different. Of course, they brought smiles to millions of faces around the world. Some say as many as 2 billion viewers!

There were a couple of points during the ceremony that I especially loved:
  • Two hymns celebrated Jerusalem; soliciting prayers for peace. Just as Scripture commands.
  • Multiple prayers of blessing reminded us all that marriages require Divine Aide.
  • Family. The peeking of Prince Harry. The attention of Pippa (Kate's sister). Kate's father beaming. Her brother's heartfelt reading of Scripture.
  • The joy - unbridled and honest.
About ten years ago, we made our first trip to England and we've been adopted sons and daughters ever since. We went to sing and preach for the British but we came away with a life-time of memories.

Yes, we saw Buckingham Palace. We strolled through Westminster Abbey. We held our breath with the changing of the guard. We rode "the Tube" (the subway). We gasped over the royal jewels. We shielded our heads from the rain. We roamed the verdant countryside. We sipped tea from delicate china.

We've been privileged to return and each subsequent visit brings new memories. I hope to find time to share one of those with you tomorrow.

But for now we're off to get ideas for our own Royal Wedding! And right here on Embrace the Grace we are offering an official invitation to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to join our prince and princess on their special day!

That's July 23rd, Kate and Wills. See you there!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Role

In just a few minutes, I'll need to dash around to straighten my living room. Company arrives early this morning.

One of our favorite parts of working in this area is serving as mentors to many of the students and young adults. Quite a few Southeastern University students find their way to Garden Grove every semester. It's the cooking that draws them and the hugs that keep them. Smile.

This morning I'll be interviewed by a delightful young missions major. She has a final project and needed to discuss the ins and outs of women in ministry. Hence, the interview.

Amanda has a passionate call to serve as a missionary to Japan.

This bright, articulate, intelligent young woman could work anywhere and make her way to the top of any corporate ladder. But Japan is her focus!

As we sat together recently, I felt humbled.

There was a definite sense of the Divine orchestrating her footsteps; just as He promises to do for all of us. But I also sensed Him whispering, "This young woman will impact people you'll never meet. Be careful and intentional about what you say to her." Yep, humbled!

The fact that she will spend her summer in Japan as an intern is actually a miracle, given the horrors of the recent tsunami. Most would run in the opposite direction; seeking out an easier assignment.

But not Amanda. Her eyes fairly sparkled as she talked about her plans. And we both celebrated the fact that Japan is now ripe for sharing the good news of Christ with its citizens. Devastating times always have a way of causing us to examine eternal matters.

In a few short weeks, Amanda will be there to walk alongside precious Japanese people as they try to "regain their footing". She'll be able to demonstrate the literal love of Christ, draw others to His cross, and never even have to preach a sermon.

(It makes buying a plane ticket seem very tempting doesn't it! Smile.)

As I share this with you, dear readers; I'm reminded of a portion of scripture. "Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God caused the growth." In other words, we each have a role to play in the lives of others. Some go, some give, some pray....... Oops, and some are interviewed. Gotta run.

Hope you find joy in doing whatever your part may be today!

Monday, April 25, 2011


I am cleaning my house!!

(Not right this second, of course, because I've stopped to write a little message to you!)

But Frank and I are making the most of the few hours available to us. His diligent work focuses on the yard. I have an "oldies" station blasting and I'm using a shovel of my own - indoors. Smile.

No, it hadn't quite reached that level. But I am glad to get to those corners and edges that we so easily overlook on a daily basis.

Our Easter celebrations were just wonderful. Full of unexpected twists and turns. (Never pays to plan things too tightly! Or you'll be certain to be disappointed. Smile.) Hope your day was blessed with family or friends; or maybe even BOTH!

It occurred to me this morning that there might possibly be one or two of you regular readers of "Embrace the Grace" that don't know about "Smithellaneous". Becky Smith (my dear personal friend and soon to be Meagan's dear personal mother-in-law) is the writer who started me on the blogging journey.

One day I hope to grow up to write just like her! Smile.

Her work is impeccable. AND (joy of joys) she is a photographer who includes pictures in her blog! Imagine that!

(I know. I know. I hear those of you saying, "Where are the pictures of Spencer?!" I'm working on getting better. Promise.)

Anyway...... Becky recently wrote a precious piece on the upcoming union of our two children. And I know you will enjoy reading her thoughts; as well as seeing pictures of Meagan and Nathan through the long years of their "courtship".

I think you can click on that link and it will take you to her site. This is a test. I'm attempting this with no assistance whatsoever from the more tech-savvy people in my life. Please let me know if it works.

Meanwhile, it's back to the task at hand. My refrigerator awaits..............

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Look

(Disclaimer: Kinda lengthy and some may find this post sad. My hope is that most will find it liberating; especially young moms who read.)

Have you ever been the recipient of someone's "Look of Disappointment"? You know, the look that says, "Was that the best you could do? I really expected more from you." This look is often followed by the "disappointed head-shake" and sometimes even the "disappointed tongue-click".

I dare say we've nearly all experienced the look from someone in our lives: sibling, spouse, friend, child, co-worker, parent, boss, etc.

And if you know the individual well, you can even get the look without the person being anywhere near you! Voice mail and e-mail serve as carriers of the look with alarming clarity!

When the girls were little, I feared the look terribly. I would stay up late into the night prior to Easter almost every year. There were baskets to prepare and hide. Socks to locate. Little white purses and shoes had scuff marks that needed removing if they were going to look brand new. Sometimes a dress needed hemming or a bow needed making.

(Please understand that most often, Frank was right in the middle of the preparations with me. But any fear of the look seemed to be mine alone.)

Because we loved Easter so much and wanted our girls to understand the significance of Resurrection Sunday, we went to great lengths to celebrate. But none of that could start until the day before Easter.

You see, each year found us very involved in every aspect of planning Resurrection Sunday for an entire congregation as well.

Oddly, the look never came to me from the little girls I wanted most to prepare for. As I think back, it didn't matter how grand and glorious nor feeble and faltering my efforts - the girls were always delighted. For them, the celebration was perfect just as it was. Whatever it was!
  • I remember inedible Easter eggs that weren't fully cooked before the dying process.
  • I remember hats that kept slipping because I hadn't properly tested them.
  • I remember a dress that was missing a slip. (Pretty important for a young lady.)
  • I remember baskets with more grass than candy.
  • I remember a camera with too little film resulting in un-captured moments.
  • I remember an unlimited number of other failures qualifying me for the look.
But if you ask our daughters today, they don't remember any of that.

(I had hoped to grow out of any concern over the look. Hasn't happened just yet; but then, I'm only 52! Smile.)

In the past 24 hours I've experienced the look several times from:
  • A guy on the interstate who thought I was traveling too slowly.
  • A pastor friend who needed an email response.
  • A church friend who expected a return phone call.
  • A family member who needed help.
  • A parent who wanted information yesterday!
As I sat quietly pondering for a few moments, (which being interpreted means:crying) I was reminded of the time Jesus gave someone the look.

Remember? It's recorded in the story of the Passion. At the last supper, Peter boldly declared what he expected of himself, "I'll die with you!"

Jesus prophesied what would really take place, "Ah, Peter. Before the rooster crows in the morning, you'll deny you even know me; not once, but three times."

"NEVER!" Peter was adamant!

But sure enough, the moment came and Peter fell miserably short of the bar he had set for himself.

Scripture and artwork alike record for us the moment that Jesus made eye contact with Peter. The moment of the ultimate look! Such shame. Such disgrace. Such sorrow.

But while thinking on that this morning (and drying my own tears of embarrassment) I felt the Lord whisper a new perspective to my heart.

That look wasn't one of disappointment. It was a look of compassion.

Jesus hadn't asked Peter to die with him. He just asked him to stay awake and help pray. Only Peter had expectations of himself that weren't realistic.

So when Jesus looked his way, Peter sensed disappointment instead of the compassion Christ was offering. "I know you're just a normal human being, Peter. Don't try to live beyond my grace."

(In later years, Peter actually did die as a martyr for the cause of Christ. But by then he understood the difference between "Grace" and trying to be "Super Human".)

Perhaps your Easter celebrations would be better served if you simply looked up into the face of the Risen Savior and saw His look of compassion - not disappointment.

If the plans aren't perfect, ease up on yourself. Lower the bar of expectation just a little bit. Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate too! Embrace the Grace!!

This Easter Sunday, I'm going to believe that others are looking at me with compassion instead of judgment. Appreciation not aggravation. Delight not disappointment.

At least.........I'm gonna try. Let me know how it goes for you.

And until then, "Here's lookin' at you, kid!" Smile.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Wonder of It All

April must be my favorite month of the year - after December, of course.

And I love when Easter falls in April; because that puts my favorite holiday in conjunction with my favorite month. Resplendent! Smile.

I wish it were possible to escort each of you (two at a time) on to my back patio. It's still cool enough in the early mornings to feel fresh. And the evenings are currently lighted by a fabulous full moon!

Our fountain/fish pond bubbles lightly over the rocks; some of which came from NC. And the koi finally know that only short people who peer over the edge will try to catch them.

So when I come out just after dawn, they all swim eagerly to the surface. It's as close as fish can come to begging. Smile. I can't resist and toss in a handful of their food. They gulp the pellets greedily and clear the surface like tiny vacuum cleaners.

Then yesterday, the gardenia bush we planted five years ago began its spring time bloom! Brilliant white flowers will cover the entire thing by Sunday. And their fragrance combines with the light bouquet of our blooming jasmine to create a fabulous perfume we enjoy day and night.

I'm especially thrilled that our passion vine has exploded with new growth. Fifteen or twenty blooms are entertaining us during Passion Week. If you've never seen passion flowers you should take a moment to google them.

My mom was so pleased with herself when she finally coaxed one into blooming. I was just a teen-ager but I remember her excitement as she called me onto the porch to see the three tiny blossoms.

"Look, Sheri! It's the Gospel in a flower!" she put on her 'teacher voice'.

"The ten white petals at the base are the foundation for the more colorful part. Just as the ten commandments are the foundation for the beauty of the Gospel. Radiating from the center are countless thin purple filaments arranged in a perfect circle - representing the crown of thorns.

The stamen is composed of five small ovals - the five wounds of Christ (two hands, two feet, his side). Finally, the pistil is actually three narrow triangles - the three nails."

Kind of reminds us of the words of David, "The whole earth tells of your glory!"

Hope you are finding the wonder of His love in your own "back yard" this week. Blessings!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Perfect Answer

Spencer (dispenser of provision). Matthew (gift of God).

Can you guess who this post is referencing?! Smile.

Frank and I got to play the role of Poppa and Nana in all its fullness this weekend. We baby-sat the young prince Friday afternoon. John was teaching, Joy has been back at the bank for two weeks now and Meagan (the official baby-sitter) was substituting.

Soooo, Poppa and Nana it was!

It was our first chance to feed him; although we've changed quite a few diapers of ALL varieties! Smile. Yes, the inexperienced diaper-er of boys (that would be me) has been baptized.

It occurred at the doctor's office. Joy was gathering things and I was doing the changing when suddenly the fount sprang forth. And it continued to spring forth for some time: all over his clothes, the exam table, the side of the table, my slacks, into my shoe, finally creating a small reservoir (actually just a big puddle) on the floor.

I know, Linda. I know. "Why didn't you grab the diaper and provide cover?!"

Once he got started, I was so startled that if I had thought to grab the diaper I probably would have just used it to cover my head!!

A wise friend had provided me with a package containing "PeePee TeePees". Unfortunately, those were on my counter at home where I had shown them to several friends like some sort of party favor.

Little did I know! Smile.

Except for suffering through his first cold, Spencer is doing beautifully! Ten weeks old and already 15 lbs. 4 oz. And too long to fit his 3 month sleeper! I'm extremely glad John and Joy are strong. They are proving to be excellent first-time parents.

Especially given the unexpected development with Spencer's arrival.

Several of you have asked why we were at Shriner's hospital last month. After growing up in a pastor's home where my siblings and I were often the illustration of the day, Frank and I made it a rule to never share personal information about our children without their permission. That's why it has taken a while for me to answer you. I was waiting to ask permission.

The afternoon Spencer was delivered by C-section, we waited (impatiently) in Joy's room. Finally the call came.

John's voice was completely calm. "Joy is fine; she did great! Spencer is here and he is perfect! Lots of hair and big blue eyes. Now.........his fingers and toes are webbed but he is absolutely perfect in every way so we're just not going to make a big deal about that. Okay? They should let us come to the room shortly. Love You!"

And so it has been!

In fact, we've focused so much on how healthy and gorgeous and brilliant he is that there hasn't really been time to notice much of anything else.

The trip to Shriner's hospital was a fact finding mission. As usual, God graced the little family.

One of the top hand surgeons in the southeast will operate on Spencer twice next year. Once to separate the first and third fingers on each hand. Then a second surgery about three months later will separate the third and fourth fingers.

Joy asked the number one question we had all thought, "My husband is a gifted pianist. After surgery, will Spencer be able to play?"

The doctor looked into Joy's heart by way of her big blue eyes and smiled. "His musical abilities will depend on his parents not his hands!"

Perfect Answer!

So when it comes time to call on you for extra prayer, rest assured the call will go out. Until then, it would probably be great for us to all take in the perfect answer of the hand surgeon.

Life is more about attitude, perspective and choices than about circumstances!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The REST of the Story

I am without excuse!

There's not even one legitimate excuse for not writing these many days.
  • Yes, I've done two conferences in the past two weeks. But I have navigated as many as six in eight weekends without mishap.
  • Yes, we've had an unusual number of members hospitalized lately. But that's not really so rare.
  • Yes, I've written sermons, led meetings, and kept office hours. But that goes with the normal weekly schedule.
  • Yes, we've covered wedding plans, family dinner, check-up calls to Dad, etc., etc., etc. Again, all part of the routine.

I think perhaps the thing that has pushed me back a little more than usual this time is the level of daunting issues facing so many of the people we love:
  • Not just a cold - pneumonia
  • Not stomach trouble - diverticulitis
  • Not a bad cough - tuberculosis (later ruled out, thank heavens)
  • Not a hospital visit - inability to go home without nursing care
  • Not a marital spat - divorce papers
And so it has gone for the past few weeks.

A friend said it well, "As pastor's wives, we become intimately involved in the lives of those we shepherd. Their troubles become our own. Their sorrows bring us to tears as well. We share their pain and burdens personally."

Such love for others can eventually take a toll. I suppose that's why we're instructed to cast every care on the only One who can effectively impact the circumstances of any life!

"In this world we will have troubles, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world!"

And THAT is the message that keeps us all rolling along in spite of life at its toughest!

Thanks to those of you who graciously asked where I have been. Your kindness brought tears of encouragement to my tired eyes - and pushed me to open the lap top again.

Be of good cheer, dear friends. Help is on the way!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh, Yes They Did!

I indulged in my favorite past time this weekend - people watching! And Atlanta Airport is the "Mecca" of all people watching posts.

But before I regale you with hysterical vignettes, you must know about the fabulous ladies who hosted me for this conference.

If you live anywhere near Crestview, FL (and don't have a home church) you MUST visit Milligan Assembly of God. They know how to do things well there!

Great music, lovely decorations, well-prepared workers, impeccable organization. LAVISH - everything they did was lavish! The gift baskets alone made the trip worthwhile! Smile.

These ladies know how to do a conference and it was my pleasure to be their guest. Thanks again, M.A.G.

Now back to the people watching.

After missing my connection because of tornadoes here, I RAN trying to catch another flight. (No easy feat for this 50-something with my "Nana Roll" in tow.)

The door was already closed. Deep Sigh! Grabbed a sandwich and parked my carry-on at the end of the concourse. Perfect positioning.

Following are only a few of the personalities I observed. You'll be tempted to question, "Sheri, did they really come to the airport that way?" Oh, yes they DID! :
  • Mr. I'm richer than any movie star you ever saw. AND I'm handsome enough to be a star if I wanted to! That's why I walk fast, talk loudly and glance at my watch as often as I glance at my reflection in the windows.
  • Ms. Yes, as a matter of fact I was a cheerleader in high school! Was it my perky disposition or my lime green, 80's pants that gave it away? Go TEAM!
  • Mrs. I've scrimped my whole life to buy this full-length mink coat! That's why I'm using two Wal-mart bags as carry-on luggage.
  • Ms. I'm a student and just rolled out of bed in time to make this flight. Are you starring at my disheveled hair or the pajama bottoms I'm using for slacks?! Yawn.
  • Mr. Confused Cowboy. I love my Stetson but I also really like Armani and I love my Reeboks!
  • Mr. I couldn't be bothered with tying my work boots. I'm only gonna get over here and kick them off exposing the hole in my sock while I wait anyway!
  • Mrs. Youth Chaser. My plastic surgeon assures me that this is all totally natural looking. Excuse me for flipping my hair extensions over your sandwich. Wanna see the pictures of my great grandchildren?!
  • Ms. I only spent a week's salary on this outfit and I'm wearing it every chance I get!
  • Mr. Follow me I know exactly where I'm going!
  • Mrs. Follow me I know exactly where I'm going! (Same as above except she has two children in tow and is exasperated with her husband, Mr. Follow Me.)
  • Ms. No I wasn't aware that when you bend over jeans tend to slide south exposing posteriors! What a nuisance.
  • Mr. I've trudged this airport for twenty years as a sales rep. Retirement beckons!
There were many service men and women. Some young and uncertain; others seasoned and quietly confident! I thanked as many as I could.

My favorite was the young mom I spotted on the underground train during a gate change. Four little ones surrounded her - none older than eight. They watched her face for instruction and not one pushed or shoved even though the train was crowded and it was getting late in the day.

The doors whooshed open and the recording droned, "Please, watch your step!" People flooded around the little group.

The two oldest children caught her nod and quickly stepped out pulling their little carry-on bags. She deftly maneuvered a double stroller containing the younger two with one hand while avoiding other passengers with the car seat she had slung over one shoulder AND pulled a carry-on with her other hand!

That young lady should be cast in her own Super Hero show! I know I'm already a fan!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I take it rather personally when the blogs I follow go three or four days without a new post.

It almost feels like an un-returned phone call or email. Which is a pretty ridiculous response when I think about it because I only know two or three of those writers personally. Why should they feel responsible to write something new just because I keep clicking on their site when I have a free minute? (That sentence just ran on and on and on.......)

Ridiculous or not, I feel connected to them through their words and I look forward to reading more.

So, here I sit in a hotel room in the panhandle of FL. It's not even 6:30 AM. I'm drinking an excuse for coffee from a tiny styrofoam cup. Listening to a baby cry in the next room.

Not a lovely picture at all. But I haven't written in three or four days and I don't want anyone to think I've forgotten you or feel, well, unconnected! Smile.

Actually, I have a pretty hilarious post I can hardly wait to complete that came to me while I was people-watching in the Atlanta airport this week. Funny stuff!

"Why are you in Crestview, FL?" you may be asking.

Because I'm speaking for a women's conference. Which, by the way, is one of my FAVORITE things to do. I'll be at one next week-end too.

I LOVE the joy of sharing God's Word. I LOVE watching the light of new understanding go on in a lady's eyes. I LOVE being privileged to pray with them. I LOVE listening to them, cheering with them, laughing, crying! I LOVE women's conferences!

All the travel, missed flights, pushy passengers, long hours, missed meals, crying babies and bad coffee are totally worth it!!

Speaking of which, I need to jump up and get ready for this morning's service.

One quick point. Several of you have posted comments which I read (sometimes several times) and truly appreciate. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to respond to those. Ah, technology! Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.