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!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just Real

I've tried to write several times over the past week but I'm just too full of emotion.

It feels like if I open even one tiny bit of my heart (which writing requires), the dam would surely break. And the full tide of emotion would come spilling over the sides; flooding everything around me.

(Hmmm. Just reread that and it sounds a bit dramatic. Smile. Sorry.......but it's also pretty accurate.)

So much has transpired this summer. The weddings of Meagan and Amanda. Regular summer events. Praying with precious church families in difficulty. Planning fall and the 2012 calendar. Then finally, coping with the loss of Amanda both professionally and as a part of our daily lives. So much.

I think I probably anticipated this last spring and took a pro-active approach. I stitched things up tightly sometime in June and have held to the ends of those threads with something akin to a death grip! Smile.

Frank is slowly prying open my "spasm-ed" little fingers while speaking in soothing tones in an attempt to keep my heart calm. (More dramatic word-picture writing. Now you know why it has taken so long! Smile.)

But in the middle of it all, I came across a great statement that alleviates guilt: "I'll do the best I can with what I have for the Lord today!"

My brain may be frazzled. My emotions unbalanced. My heart aching. My foot hurting - oh wait, you didn't need a report on the corn I've developed, did you?! Smile.

The point?

All He asks is that I do the best I can with what I have available at this moment.

That, dear readers, merits a large "Sigh" of relief! And a smile.

So, no big object lesson today. And no funny story. Just a peek into the real heart of an honest, middle-aged woman. (Thought I'd take the opportunity to write "middle-aged" while I still can!)

Hope the rest of your week is blessed.