Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Traditions DO matter!

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

But they should happen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Simple Truth

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

And how accurate his simple truth!

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward three annual visits to January of this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaching Babies

Please don't be misled by this title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

What To Say?

So exactly what is most important to report?

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

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

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

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

Even Bella and Gracie appeared well fed and emotionally healthy!

So the bottom line?

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

That's all.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

He Is Aware

I’m missing my mom so badly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And your father is 71. Good health?”

“He’s 74.”


“Your mother is 71. Fair health?”

My breath caught and my throat tightened.

“Um. She’s deceased.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bad Form

We were terrible neighbors last night!

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, we've never celebrated Halloween.

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

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

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

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

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

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