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!!