Monday, March 26, 2012


Yep, that’s my new middle name – HUMBLE!

Bestowed upon me as I recently devoured a huge piece of Humble Pie.

Have I mentioned that I’m NOT an athlete? Not in any way, shape or form. Never have been. Most likely never will be.

Kickball served as my greatest nemesis in elementary school. I had the wind knocked out of me while playing Red Rover. And softball? Forget it!

I had to run laps in high school to demonstrate my level of physical fitness. Other girls LAPPED me because I ran so slowly. And that came with my best effort! My only D was in that phys ed class!

(Oh, wait. I also had one in Geometry. But that was math, which I stink at, so that doesn’t really count.)

Fortunately, my current life does not require much athleticism. I converse about the final four. I can watch football, baseball, even soccer with some level of intelligence. And that seems sufficient for those sports nuts around me.

Except for my main squeeze – John Franklin.

He has mentioned several times how much he’d like for me to get interested in biking. I’ve reminded him that biking is his outlet. His personal time for reverie. Why would he want to destroy that with female company that wants always to chat?

But he is a persistent man!

So last Saturday, we borrowed Joy’s bicycle (complete with baby carrier) and headed to the trail.

The sun shone; birds chirped; the breeze blew; temperature hovered around 75. A perfect bicycling day for novices and experts alike.

We headed out; Frank offered small coaching tips and encouragement. But Spencer’s handle on the baby carrier was causing great distress in the area of my derriere!

I tried to describe my level of discomfort to Frank but he just kept nodding and saying, “Uh huh. I can see.” Not the answer I wanted – at all!

He did finally figure out how to move the bar; giving me full use of the seat. And believe me, I needed FULL use of the seat!

After that, the ride actually became rather pleasant. (Please refer back to “sun shining; birds chirping” paragraph.)

We rode on, stopping each time my legs cramped or my bottom demanded. And I started enjoying myself. Frank gave a steady commentary about the trail and even shared stories from past rides he’d taken solo or with John.

I could see myself doing this on a semi-regular basis.

Then, it happened.

I made the mistake of asking how far we had ridden. “Three miles,” he said.

My little calculating mind (never still while I’m in a waking state) began to figure.

If we ride one more mile, that will make the round trip eight miles. Frank’s first bike ride three years ago was ten miles and we cheered like he’d won the Tour de France. Surely I could do eight!

Now, “not athletic” does not mean I’m not competitive!

  • One young lady swore to never play a board game with me ever again because of my competitive streak.

  • Frank and I almost called off our wedding due to a Monopoly game that went rogue.

  • Inability to play volleyball well doesn’t stop me from challenging the opposing team with noisy rhetoric.

Okay, so I have a rather serious character flaw. “Hi, my name is Sheri and I’m competitive…..”

So, back to the ride.

My legs were starting to hurt a bit and I knew that this was only the beginning of the pain I’d be experiencing the next day. I really should give up and turn around now.

But hey, that’s why they invented Tylenol, right? I was going to make eight miles! I was determined!

Frank began to say, “Honey, we’ll turn around any time you’re ready.”

“No, I’m good. Let’s just ride a little farther.” I could smell the joy that would accompany the completion of that eighth mile!

“Must get to mile four before turning around! Can’t quit now! Just……Keep…….Pedaling!”

When we reached the fourth mile, I silently congratulated myself. Please remember, Frank had no idea of the thoughts rambling around in my head.

The trip back seemed to have a decidedly uphill slant; much tougher than the first half.

Not a problem. I was mentally up for the challenge. I kept my focus on the moment that would come when we were all sitting around the dinner table and I would casually point out that my first ride had only been two miles shorter than Dad’s first ride.

It would indeed be a delightful moment. I could hear the congratulatory comments already. The entire family would cheer!


One short mile from the finish line……er, uh, from the car……we had the choice of repeating a side trail we’d taken at the beginning.

Frank could see that I was pushing hard, so he suggested that we skip the extra trail.

Skip it? That would keep us from making the eight-mile marker I’d set up in my head.


My response was a bit too emphatic and he glanced over at me. “Well, uh, that was a pretty spot. I’d like to ride back through there again.” The huffing and puffing blurred any edge of competitive inflection.

I can see you shaking your head already. Yep, brace yourself. Ever heard the scripture, “Pride goes before a fall”?

We turned smoothly onto the side trail without even slowing down. Frank complemented my improving skills. I beamed. Victory called from just two short miles away!

Another bicycling couple approached from the opposite direction. I casually lifted my hand to wave a greeting and flashed my best “preacher’s wife smile”.

Casual became careless. And in that instant, all of life went into slow motion.

I didn’t see that Frank had slowed for the curve. My front tire clipped his back tire and the future became immediately clear – I was going DOWN!

SELAH. (Which means: stop and consider.)

My favorite capris will become shorts this summer due to the large tear just below my left knee. The bruises have turned multiple shades of purples and yellows. The Neosporin and bandages I’ve kept on hand for John became MY friends. And things have ached that I never knew I had.

Sure glad we have a good chiropractor!

And that, dear friends, is my confession for the day. Confessing is good. Dealing with a character flaw is even better.

Gotta go change my bandage now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Missing Piece

I’m convinced that in each relationship we share, there is a piece of that person’s life that we’re missing.

A key. A missing tidbit of information. A puzzle piece that (if fitted into place) would cause us to back up and say, “Ohhh, well that finally makes sense!”

I have a dear friend I’ve admired for many years. She and I became close when our children were just babies. Jennifer* had two perfect little ones who were truly beautiful; a daughter and a son.

Her son, an extremely bright and curious boy, had a vocabulary that exceeded any child his age. We often roared with laughter as she told stories of encounters with strangers in the grocery store; his latest climbing adventure or other “learning experiences.”

Jennifer definitely had her hands full! But she carried on with the grace and optimism of young motherhood.

Joshua’s precocious ways unnerved a lot of people. And when he came to play with my girls I certainly had to stay on my toes. But his loving and compassionate nature always took center stage, to me.

Just before Joshua turned five, we started to realize that some of his behavior had no explanation. The stories changed from light-hearted to startling. Jennifer began to express genuine concern for Josh’s safety – he seemed to have no fear at all.

Jennifer’s husband worked as a public servant. His job left them open to all sorts of suggestions and criticism regarding Joshua. To the casual observer, Josh looked like any other rambunctious little boy. So the input ranged from practical to absurd:

  • “Isn’t there a pill they can give him?”
  • “I think a good old fashioned spanking is in order!”
  • “Have you checked for food allergies?”
  • “If you would just get that kid on a better schedule….”

People seldom gave any thought to the heart of the young mother they so freely scrutinized. I cried with Jennifer over some of the more ruthless comments.

During one of those times she said, “It seems like it would be so much easier if he had a physical handicap. That way, at least people would try to muster some sympathy!”

At long last, Joshua was diagnosed with a form of Autism. And the truth became painfully clear – without Divine intervention, Joshua would continue to struggle and people would most likely never understand.

I watched my precious friend become his champion.

If tests were needed and the insurance company refused, she spent countless hours helping them change their corporate mind.

She wrestled with the school system until he successfully graduated high school.

Jennifer sought out job opportunities that would help her son experience the joy of being gainfully employed.

She helped provide community service hours; letting him follow in Dad’s footsteps.

She refused to allow people to label Joshua. And she prayed like Hannah!

When I see Jennifer in other settings now, I know the pain that resides deep in the heart of this polished, confident woman. I know of the darker puzzle pieces God has fitted into the portrait of her life: disappointment, sorrow, grief, questions without answers.

And I marvel at her.

I often think back on her pondering from long ago, “Wouldn’t it be easier if he had a physical handicap that people could see?”

And I wonder how many people around me are, right now, struggling with issues I know nothing of.

Hearts, broken beyond healing, continue to beat. But they doubt joy will ever come again.

The wife of someone in a public role (like Jennifer) who wants to simply crawl into a hole and wait for the storm to end. But she can’t! Obligations and commitments make no allowance for hidden pain. So she smiles and soldiers on as best she can.

The obnoxious teen-ager who dresses so ridiculously. He’s grappling with life questions that would overwhelm an adult. But he dares not say anything to anyone!

The sullen student who never has her work done. She couldn’t return a report card if her life depended on it. But every evening in her upscale home is one more night of terror.

What kind of compassion would we lavish on these if only we had the missing piece of the puzzle? If only we knew!

The ironic thing is this: we seldom ever have that information. God calls us to offer grace and compassion to others without knowing the whole story.

Only He has the vantage point of seeing the entire picture.

My prayer? “Lord, help me blindly extend the kind of lavish love to others that I would gladly give if I knew their story.”

I keep a puzzle piece in my desk as a reminder of this prayer.

Please, feel free to adopt that visual aid too, dear reader. Truth is, we can all afford to be a little more understanding!

Amen. Amen to that!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


You made me cry!

Yes, it was you; I'm certain.

After two long weeks of "blogger's stage fright," I finally pushed the post button on Wednesday evening, just before Bible study. I came back to the office early Thursday and decided to proof the post one more time before someone might get to their office and actually start reading it.

What should greet my discouraged eyes but a "7" in the comment box. Seven gracious, thoughtful, encouraging comments. (That number has risen to eleven.) I honestly felt like someone had left an envelope full of money on my desk blotter.

Frank stepped in to ask a question and found me reaching for the tissues.

"Honey, what's wrong?!" I don't cry a lot first thing in the day.

"There are seven comments on my blog this morning!" The tears made me feel self-conscious. But fortunately, my husband understands how much this endeavor means to me.

He came around the desk, gave me a hug and insisted we read each one again. A couple were first-time responders. And two said they sometimes share these thoughts with friends. Big encouragement to keep at it!

What an amazing time we live in; where friendships form in cyberspace. I always wanted a pen pal story: "Oh, we've written letters back and forth for fifteen years. And this summer she's getting on a plane and we'll actually meet for the first time. But we already know each other because of the letters we've shared!"

Hmmm -guess that's why reading our Bible is so important. Its the record of God's letters to us and it gives us an opportunity to get to know Him. Then one day when we actually meet for the first time, we won't be strangers at all because of the letters.

Thank you so much for taking time to read Embrace the Grace! And thanks to those who commented.

The tears were happy ones I assure you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fresh Start

Do you ever experience the "Total Fail" feeling?

You know, that moment when you realize:
  • you're up to your ankles in dirty laundry.
  • you're holding a calendar that can not possibly squeeze in one more element.
  • you forgot to pick up milk - again.
  • every person in your life needs assistance you can't provide.
  • your guests are arriving early and dinner is definitely late!

Our under-thirties often call this The Epic Fail!

And that's what I've experienced lately in regards to this blog. I have not written for two full weeks now. That (according to every blogger I've encountered) qualifies as an Epic Fail for sure!

But each time I would attempt to sit down and write, something urgent would take center stage.

I've had several great blog ideas. Timely stories. Humorous occurrences. Powerful illustrations. But here we are, two weeks out and not one has been recorded. Huge SIGH!

I would think of all you kind readers/commentators who actually take time to stop by here and follow my ramblings.

  • "Will they think something is wrong?"
  • "Will they wonder if you've just stopped writing entirely?"
  • "Will they loose interest?"
  • The worst of all: "Will anyone know you haven't posted?"

AAGGHHH -entirely too must introspection for an extrovert!

For me, blogging is such a great honor. I take it quite seriously when anyone chooses to pull a moment from their limited cache of free time and read or listen to anything I have to say. That person needs to be rewarded with a nugget of truth; a word of encouragement; at the very least, a smile.

But for the past two weeks, I just haven't felt the spark of inspiration. And after starring at my computer, totally devoid of words I deemed valuable enough to record, I got "stage fright". And just. could. not. write.

Silly, I know. But please understand how much I want to offer you something of real value when you stop by "Embrace the Grace".

So it was that in the pre-dawn hours of this very morning, I lay awake praying about this blog. I thought of all the regular comment-leavers and how much they've encouraged me these past two years. I recounted the fact that TWO WEEKS have passed without so much as a word; incredibly rude by Southern standards. I rehearsed the joy of pressing the Publish Post button. I questioned my ability to craft a post worthy of your time.

And ever so quietly, I felt the Father whisper to my heart, "You believe in fresh starts for everyone else.............why not yourself?"

"Well, mostly because I should be able to live up to my commitments," was the harsh response from my condemning heart.

"I'll give you a fresh start, then!" His reply always brings comfort. "Just write something. Anything. Just START!"

And so I have.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for reading Embrace the Grace! I truly count your partnership (I write. You read. We both benefit.) as a gift in my life.

May yours be blessed beyond measure today! And may you also encounter a fresh start where it's most needed.