Friday, December 23, 2011

Accommodating and Accomplishing

December 25, 2011 brings a 750 mile road trip - after church.

Christmas Day for the Hawley/Schreck/Smith family was Thursday.

"Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house lay the presents unwrapped from my children and spouse......."

Meagan and Nathan flew to NC Friday. John, Joy and Spencer leave for NY on Monday. Frank, Kristin and I will hit Charlotte and Dunn next week.

Because we're blessed to have all our little chickens and their families within spitting distance, we share with glad hearts on every holiday possible.

We spent many years preparing ourselves for the possibility of everyone being spread hither and yon. So to only have to say "Farewell" a few days at a time is truly splendiferous!

We refer to this season of life as "Frosting Time." Having them all around is like frosting to the marvelous gifts God has already given us as a family. And we are thankful!

But even with all this marvelous-ness, there are struggles to overcome and there is snakey water to navigate. Allow me to explain.

Christmas is such an important celebration for us. Probably a few too many traditions and special moments that need to be repeated every single year - without fail.

We're also trying to blend in traditions that are important to John and Nathan too.

Now in order to accomplish all that celebrating and merry-making and tradition honoring, we have to co-ordinate the work schedules of seven adults, the sleep schedule of one amazing grand, the church schedule, travel plans, additional parties, airport runs..................

The opportunity for chaos to reign is unbelievable!

And yet somehow, by the grace of God, we had a proposed plan ready to put into place by the first of December.

It was decided that everyone would come to our house and spend the night on Wednesday for the Christmas Eve traditions. Then we would get up on Thursday morning and treat it just like Christmas Day!

That was the proposed plan.

Oh, wait. We have church on Wednesday night. No problem, we'll just start after church.

Things really started snarling when complimentary tickets for a professional basketball game became available to some. Once in a lifetime opportunity, right? But it just happened to be on (for us) Christmas Eve!

I can hear the lilting English voice on my GPS, "Recalculating!"

Ummmm, okay. No big deal. We have adult children, I'm willing to accommodate their needs/desires. It's Christmas! You should go to the game.

We'll just stay up really late to mark "Christmas Eve" and start a little later on "Christmas Morning." (Even though I'm usually comatose by 9:30 pm; caffeine was meant for times like this!)

Then I got word that the revelers would need to leave our house around 1 or 2 pm in order to finish laundry, clean house and be ready for their flights.

Ummm, what about dinner? How are we supposed to squeeze everything into just four hours? Is it even possible to do Christmas Day on fast forward? Doesn't that defeat the purpose?


No problem, Mom! We'll just throw something on the grill and have a little dinner at John and Joy's while everyone keeps doing laundry and packing. It'll be just fine!


No Ham? No china? No candles? No lingering? No games?

Who raised these children?!!

My Mama-mind immediately pictured the worst scenario:
  • Christmas Story read at top speed.
  • Gifts thrown to recipients.
  • Wrapping paper ripped off and tossed on the floor.
  • "Thanks, Mom and Dad!"
  • "All right, load it up. See you later!"


My accommodation capabilities could not stretch that far!

Fortunately, Frank got to me before I blew a fuse.

After hearing me describe my vision of the worst possibilities, he calmly replied, "That's not what they have in mind, Sheri. Just let Kristin explain what they've discussed. Then we'll work out the details."

Husbands are a gift from God!

"Christmas 2011" did not end up being what I would have scripted. But it was wonderful all the same.

Mostly it was wonderful because God graciously helped me release "Sheri's Script" and embrace what everyone else wanted. A true Christmas Miracle!

And in the middle of all that releasing and recalculating?

We still had a lovely Christmas dinner complete with ham, the trimmings, china and candlelight. It was just at John and Joy's table instead of mine.

Games were played. But they involved a Kinnect instead of a board or cards.

And we lingered much longer than I would have ever guessed.

My accommodating ability now has new boundaries. The needs of my adult children were met without any guilt or condemnation attached. And remarkably, many of my own hopes were fulfilled. A memorable Christmas was had by all.

Mission Accomplished!

If I were to extend one Christmas wish to each of you, dear readers it would be this: "May you be flexible enough this blessed season to not be bent out of shape!"

"And I heard her exclaim 'ere she drove out of sight, Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Male Sickness Cycle

Frank had out-patient surgery on Monday.

Nothing major, thankfully. But still, the dread of all the unknown - needles; probing; exposing; anesthetizing; cutting; stitching. You know, all that goes with what used to be a week in the hospital and is now considered "out patient" surgery.

I relived my appreciation for all people medically inclined on Monday. The Lakeland Regional Diagnostic and Surgical Center employs people who understand an important basic principle. While this is where they comfortably work and do life every single day - it is one SCARY place for the rest of us!

I was careful to express my appreciation to as many of the staff as possible while walking through the experience with Frank. We had only one humorous encounter and that was with the recovery nurse.

Apparently, Frank decided he wanted OUT of the bed they had him in and he began moving in that direction determinedly!

Now some would describe my husband as a teddy bear. But not Linda the recovery nurse! She kept calling to him, "Frank. Frank! You can't get up yet! Do you hear me, Frank?!"

When I got back to the recovery area, Linda tried to describe what had been going on. She looked across the drowsy patient, made intentional eye contact with me, tapped her own temple several times and whispered, "He wasn't with me!"

I stifled a chuckle and said, "But he's okay now?" She assured me he was.

About this time, Frank started looking up at me with a suspicious expression and asking repeatedly, "I'm being a good patient, right?

He appeared slightly drunk (although he's never been drunk) and had great trouble holding open his eyes. Helping him get dressed to leave was an adventure too!

We've now experienced the "Male Sickness Cycle" multiple times.

(I must preface this portion of the post by explaining that Frank has no equal when it comes to nursing the girls or me. When we're sick, he covers every detail and offers gentle care. Treasure!)

But even the most amazing men seem to struggle with the Male Sickness Cycle. It goes something like this:
  • I'm tough! I don't need anyone taking care of me!
  • Wow! Did you see these stitches?!
  • Just how deep do you think they had to cut me?
  • Can I have a glass of ______?
  • Can you hand me the remote?
  • I don't want to be a bother!
  • Can you get a blanket for me?
  • Could you rub my head? My feet?
  • Should I take a nap now?
  • Isn't it time for another pain pill?
  • I'm not being a baby, am I!

And so it goes.

Today Frank is back in the office for a few hours. And with the week-end we have coming up, he has to re-engage pretty quickly. I must admit that caring for him has been a privilege. And while he has made me smile several times, he really hasn't been a baby!

Prayer Request!

We have a local ministry called The Mission that provides Christmas gifts for disadvantaged families in Winter Haven. They recently asked our church to host the children this year as they attend the event. Such a privilege!

John, Kristin and Amanda have been quickly preparing for the 500 children they told us to expect. Games. Inflatables. Candy, of course candy! And a fifteen minute children's service every hour.

Last week we discovered that it would be 500 Families! An estimated 1500-2000 CHILDREN! Our entire church is pitching in to help but we could sure use your prayers this Saturday from 9-3:00. I'll give a report; but thanks in advance!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grown-up Christmas

Christmas feels a little different this year.

Frank and I have talked about it a couple of times now. We seem to be missing the excitement. The anticipation. The thrill of all things Christmas. And we've heard the same thing from others.

Our entire married lives, Christmastime has been a very big deal!

We got married on December 30th. Meagan was born on December 20th. John proposed to Joy in December.

We've enjoyed and directed scores of Christmas pageants, parties, cantatas, programs............
We've traveled over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house. We've hosted extended family at our own home. We've given surprise gifts and received surprise gifts. We've experienced miracle provisions when the coffers were empty. We've provided Christmas for others when the opportunity was there.

But this year, it just feels different. (And it's not just because the weather is still a balmy 75 here in FL.)

Frank and I finally concluded that it feels different because this is an "all adult" Christmas. (Spencer will simply enjoy the boxes and wrapping paper this year. No real need for gifts in the boxes!)

And since our salaries don't really allow us to re-create the Lexus commercials (you know, the whole big red bow on top of the $75,000 car in the driveway complete with a dusting of snow commercial) we could feel a little less joyful.

When we were children, Christmas was truly magical! And when our girls were little, we had the thrill of watching their "dreams come true."

There were baby dolls dreamed of that brought tears of joy when opened. Bicycles (sometimes refurbished) that elicited squeals of delight. A pair of boots. A particular outfit. Always such gratitude and joy!

Several years we were serving as pioneer pastors and Christmas proved to be a true miracle provided for us by others who saw our need and cared. Those times were like a tightrope walk; fear and faith, fear and faith.

We had no ability to change reality. Because really? There was NO extra money - anywhere! We could only trust God that He would bless our children. And He always did!

Even the year that the car top carrier malfunctioned and flew open. The girls' carefully hidden gifts sprayed all over the interstate in a matter of seconds! What a Memory!!

So if the traditional thrills of giving, receiving, and even cold weather seem to be evading us what do we do?

Well, Frank and I have taken an honest look at what we've always thought brought the "joyful" to Christmas. And we've hit some interesting observations.

If we try to re-create the Christmases of our childhood, it doesn't fit. Kind of like squeezing into a playhouse that we outgrew long ago.

And if we try to re-create the Christmases of our girls' childhoods we'll make them miserable!

The remedy? Pretty simple, actually. And some may even say it's a bit cheesy.

But it's working for us.

We've chosen to focus on the original Joy. The CHRIST of Christmas.

And as we have, creative ideas are beginning to flow. Opportunities are presenting themselves. Momentum is building. And the shocker? As the focus moves from us and our "feelings," the Christmas Joy we longed to find is returning!

Such Irony!

May I encourage you to do the same if Christmas is feeling different for you this year? It may be due to reduced finances. Maybe you've lost a precious family member. Some are struggling with health issues.

You can't change the reality. But you CAN shift your focus!

Find something to be grateful for. Fill a need in the life of someone else. Write a letter of appreciation. Stop looking at commercials and sales papers! Look instead at the promises we have in God's Word.

And today I'm offering a money back guarantee. Try the Fabulous Focus Shift for three days and see if the joy isn't resurrected in your Christmas heart. If you aren't completely satisfied I'll return every penny plus cover shipping and handling!

Merry Grown-up Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Festive Frenzy

(Please read the following to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas".)

"By the 5th of December my party count was three! Two great church gatherings. And a concert that was absolutely freeeeee."

Yes, friends. My posting has slowed to a crawl for many reasons. The main reason being all things fantastic about Christmas!

Would it be right for someone who loves people so very much (as do I) to NOT be part of multiple festive gatherings at this most social time of year? (Okay, so you detected that I've also enjoyed far too many peppermint latte's already. Hasn't everyone?!)

It's true. I'm a Christmas Festivity Junkie!

Even as I compose this post, I have rolling in the back of my mind the necessity of soon determining wardrobe choices for the next three evenings of "Meeting and Greeting." My sister has often referred to me as the "Social Butterfly" in her life. Whatever could she mean?

Now, all this gathering has it's down side too.

Like Friday morning when I got up to discover my first Christmas Disaster of 2011.

Frank had spent five precious hours the Friday before giving our carpet the cleaning of its fibrous life! When he finished, it looked almost new. I could hardly wait for the entertaining to begin.

Unfortunately, Bella (the horse dog) sneaked some Christmas chocolate that dogs aren't supposed to eat because it makes them violently ill. And she decided to become violently ill on my freshly cleaned carpet!! And we had twenty guests scheduled to arrive in eight short hours!

What do you mean, "Is she better now?"

What you need to ask is, "Did she live to see another day?!"

Yes, but only because Frank hid her in the garage before I could get to her! And yes, she's better....stupid dog!

Frank re-cleaned the necessary areas. We bought Christmas-scented air freshener in the industrial size. Lowered the lights. Lit candles. And hoped everyone would buy the idea that it was all ambiance related!

Then there was the Sunday morning disaster. The water department failed to meet their expected time of 6:00 AM to have the water back on in our community after working through the night. That meant we had to jump into high gear, pack up and dash to the church for showers.

As a bonus, the water in our church shower tops the meter for being sulfuric. In other words, it smells just like rotten eggs!

What a stinky start for Sunday morning. Kristin and I literally gagged our way through the necessary Sabbath cleanings. Whew!

All attitudes were quickly adjusted in order to enjoy Sunday service with our church family.We headed home after lunch, hoping to catch a quick nap before the party that night.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but droplets of water and a raging shower, Dear!
You guessed it. I turned the shower on while the water was off. And later when the water came back on, there was no one home to turn the shower off!!

We'll have other Christmas disasters for 2011, I'm sure. But we've come to view these as all part of the Memory Making Process.

Some of our funniest family stories revolve around situations that felt like a real disaster at the time. Might as well stop and laugh. What else are you gonna do?

I came across a great thought jotted in the back of my calendar. The speaker said, "God uses difficulty to beckon us; not BURY us. Without Goliath, David would have just been a musician tending sheep!"

Rich, right?

May all your festivities be more fun than frenzy! And if not, just think, you've made a memory!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ready or Not


DECEMBER FIRST?????!!!!! Say it isn't So!!!

I currently possess ONE Christmas gift which poorly represents the dozens I must procure prior to C-Day! Ho Ho OOOHHH!

I read about a young friend in her late 20's who had already purchased, wrapped, decorated and posted all things Christmas by the Monday following Thanksgiving.

My question for her?

What exactly does she plan to do with all of December? She'll completely miss out on the rushing, the scurrying, the heart-palpitating that most of us associate with this blessed season.

Wait. Come to think of it, that probably wouldn't be such a bad idea!

Fortunately for me (one of the classic UN-prepared), I have many extra hands ready to jump in and help with any and all things Christmas.

We are planning a staff and board gathering at our house tomorrow night. Joy will help cook. Kristin will decorate. Meagan will entertain. And Frank will join me in looking like the cucumber cool hosts we wish we were! (Not too sure what I plan to do if they're unavailable some day!)

Since I seldom ever shop, I have help in that area as well. People are so pleasantly surprised to see me in a store that they gladly join me.

Christmas shopping for me is more like a hunting expedition anyway. Not at all the leisurely, year-long event Mom Hawley enjoys. Almost all my Christmas purchases are made within a two week period. Just like hunting season.

Armed with my list and my coupons. Dressed in comfortable clothing and flat shoes. Knowing all the best bargain locations. I move stealthily into position for the kill. BOOM! I snag the bargain of all times! And the exhilaration of each purchase provides the adrenaline needed to keep tracking until every last purchase is loaded in the truck! (Um, Tahoe. I got carried away with the metaphor.)

And we already have teams in place to lead most of the celebrations and events scheduled for church. that I think about it, pass the eggnog. I'm ready too!

Merry Christmas, dear readers!