Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So, maybe just one more post about Spencer this month!

I try not to insist that everyone love my grandchildren just as much as I do.  (Although, I don't know anyone who can resist their precious smiles!)

But I did get to tell this to Linda first; so I think it's okay to hit the "share all" button on it.

Spencer has a new favorite word: "Hup!"

He uses it quite often these days making me roar with laughter and squeezing my heart all at the same time.

Seems his mama has taught him that "Hup!" is an important word for every little man-in-training.  Have you guessed the meaning of "Hup!" yet?

Well, let me share with you how I first heard it. 

Spencer and Poppa were walking down the sidewalk at church, side by side.  Poppa was carrying something in a plastic bag from Wal-mart.  The second handle blew free and Spencer reached up his tiny hand to grab it.  They took a couple of steps together; both holding the bag.

Spencer looked up at Poppa and with great conviction announced, "Hup!"

Poppa looked around surprised and responded, "Yes, you are helping Poppa!  What a good helper you are!!"   

Spencer beamed!  He loves being identified as a Helper!

One of the best things I read as a young mom was written by Dr. James Dobson.  He explained that every child needs to know they are valued and that they contribute in their family.  (Much the way children contributed on the family farm decades ago.)  It develops the child's self-worth.

Apparently, Linda Schreck read the same Dobson book because both of Spencer's parents are already instilling an appreciation for good work and helping others.  At twenty months, Spencer wants to Hup!

Sigh - filled with joy!

In other matters, someone asked recently why my name has changed from Nana to Noni. 

I thought through the matter of my grandma name well before Spencer was born.  I consulted other grandmothers.  I talked at length with Frank and each of the girls.  I stood at the back door and yelled several possibilities into the backyard.  (Mom always said that was the foolproof way to choose a good name.  Yell it out the door three times.  If you still liked it after that, it was a winner.)

Nana became my name of choice!  It sounded respectful enough to be a true grandma but cute enough to be a young grandma.  It passed the back door yelling test with flying colors.  I even have a picture frame with Nana scrolled across the top. 

So, why the change?

Well, one evening several months back everyone arrived at our house for dinner all at the same time.  It was chaos at the front door.  I stood at the kitchen sink with a perfect view into the mayhem.  Joy had Abigail in her arms and John sat Spencer down just as they crossed the threshold.

In all that confusion, at the very same moment, Spencer and I made eye contact.  He threw both arms in the air and yelled, "NONI!!"

Noni it is!  Noni it shall be!!

Take Spencer's advice and find someone to HUP.  It'll make you feel great, he promises!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Battle

Frogs have invaded my wind chime!

Dozens of beady-eyed amphibians have somehow managed to cram their green bodies into the tubes comprising my wind chime.  And I am NOT Pleased!

We thought we took care of our croaking neighbors last year.  (A friend warned that if one frog had babies in our koi pond, all the babies would return to also procreate and we would have a real problem.)

Frank acted promptly and decisively.  Each time one of those little free-loaders tried to set up house keeping on our wall, we captured him and sent him on to his eternal reward.  We even posted a warning sign- "No Procreating Allowed".  Apparently they can't read.

It appears that despite our most diligent efforts, a Kermit Wannabe slipped through.  And this summer we've experienced a frog infestation rivaling that from the banks of the Nile.

Do NOT coo and say to your screen, "Oh, Sheri!  How bad can it be to have a couple of cute little frogs singing joyfully around your decorative pond.  They catch mosquitoes, don't they?!"

That was my naive thought when we first started this battle! 

But I've now discovered the truth.  While one tiny tadpole may be cute, they never travel alone!  I'm convinced that you only see them one at a time because the rest of the platoon hide off to the side and send in the most adorable of the group to catch you off guard.

You spot him and think, "Oh, he's not so bad.  What harm can one little jumping frog do?"  You are unaware that you're being watched from the bushes by the best of Frog Intelligence.

"Suspect has evaluated the drone and allowed it to live, Sir.  We're in!"

Once they establish a beach head - you're done for! One intruder tolerated opens the door for a full-on invasion!

What does all this have to do with the wind chimes?  Well apparently, these cunning creatures also have a team that scouts out housing options.  (What happened to the mosquito eaters, I ask?)

Some daring frog-soldier made the precarious climb all the way up my porch post, across the ceiling, over to the hook holding the chimes.  He leaped (which they're famous for) onto a chime tube, then squished, squirmed and squiggled his way into the "safety" of the tube.  Sending word back to operations that housing had been secured.

And that's where we discovered them.  (The discovery story will have to wait.)  Not just one or even two per tube - Frank extracted FOUR from a single tube!

Can you hear my frustration?

Adding insult to injury is the fact that these are the very chimes I waited two years to purchase.  Most of you know how much I love being outdoors when possible.  The breeze, the sunrise/sunset, the fragrant flowers, water trickling over the rocks of our pond.........resplendent.

Imagine my delight when I finally located a set of wind chimes that perfectly completed this setting.  Not only were they rich sounding; not only were they the specific brand I'd been searching for; not only were they half price; they also came to my attention just after I'd received an honorarium from a speaking engagement!  Oh, happy day!

The melodious sound has enriched my soul many mornings!

Until now.......

Crammed full of frog bodies, the chimes sound wooden and  unnatural.  My chimes are completely incapable of singing the way they were created to sing.  So sad!

And, of course, I caught a glimpse of my real self in all this.

When I tolerate even the smallest amount of unforgivenss, self-pity, or bitterness, it clogs my heart.  (No matter how innocent it may seem.)  It establishes a beach head and rapidly multiplies while I'm not watching. 

Soon my song of praise becomes wooden, unnatural.  I no longer sound like a grateful pilgrim; I sound whine-y and dull.  Completely incapable of living or loving with full, joyful expression.

So sad!

Today, Frank plans a major cleaning out of all things amphibious.  He will extract, extricate and even exterminate all unwelcome creatures.  By evening our chimes should be able to sing again - just as they were created to do.

Perhaps I'll spend some quiet time cleaning out my heart, too.  Killing off any vestige of the things that try to steal my song.  No corner of my heart left unexamined, unrepentant.  This is a battle I'm willing to fight.

By evening, I want to sing - just as I was created to do!


Thursday, October 18, 2012


Who functions as "Cheerleader" in your life?  Are you counted as an "Encourager" for someone else?

Important questions in a world like ours.  As the political season reaches its zenith, we hear much about cheering for someone.  Even those who are simply cheering against someone!  Hmmm.

Frank and I have done a lot of behind the scenes type work in our lifetime.  So I guess that's part of what has made us so aware of those who step in as encouragers for us.

Today, I just want to utilize this platform to express how very important that is.  How delightful and refreshing are the words "Thank You!"  One word of encouragement can often be the difference between someone's choice to "press on" or "throw in the towel."

I've had times where a simple hug and smile offered in a casual or off-handed way resulted in a card of appreciation from the recipient.  Who knew that something so small could have such a big impact?!

But haven't you experienced that too?  A hug, a smile, a hand squeeze, a card, a single positive expression that came to you at just the most needed moment and suddenly your entire perspective changed for the better.

At this point in my life, I'm surrounded by many people who serve as encouragers.  My family, my church family, friends from hither and yon.  But because I share a different relationship with all my "Blog-Reading Family," there is a name I must share with you.

Guerrina Waters.

Guerrina lives in New England.  She has read my blog almost since the earliest post three years ago.  Her son's family moved to a city near us and when she came to visit them, we met face to face. 

I was very touched that she made time for that meeting.

Sad to say, if I only had six days to spend with Spencer and Abby after traveling 1,500 miles to get to them, I don't think I'd share a moment of that time with ANYONE!  (Selfish, I know.)

But Guerrina graciously shared time with me at the coffee shop nearest her son's home. And if you read Embrace the Grace very often, you'll notice that Guerrina also takes time to comment pretty regularly.  (Comments are like the protein that keeps each blog writer going!)

Several weeks ago, I hit a wall with my writing.  The blank page laughed at me each time I opened it.  My thoughts seemed scattered and uninspiring. But finally, I mustered up enough courage to write what I considered a rather weak, rambling post. 

In no time at all, Guerrina showed up - complete with pom poms and cheers of affirmation.

Not gonna lie, she made me cry.

And so today, I say thank you!  Thank you to all those who chose to cheer lead for others in their lives.  Thank you for each spark of encouragement, whether large or small.  Thank you for words, hugs, smiles, touches, remembrances.  Thank you for choosing to be a refreshing spring instead of a drain!  (Saw that on a church sign.  Isn't it great?!)

Thanks especially to Guerrina! 

This week end, Frank and I get to minister together at a conference.  Sure looking forward to it!  We'd appreciate your prayers if we come to your mind.  Thanks, in advance!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Peas and Tanks

What could those two possibly have in common?  Peas and Tanks?!

Well, I'm glad you asked.

It's been quite some time since I regaled you with a post about our precious little treasures - Spencer Matthew and Abigail Grace.  Today is the day!!

Contrary to what one might imagine, I don't get to spend every single day cuddling, cooing, exploring and playing.  (Although, I would love to make a living at that!)

This weekend was our women's fall break away.  Some 1,500 women from central and southern FL gathered in Orlando to hear Lisa Bevere.  An amazing time!  But it was also the week end for the Century Ride - Frank and John's 100 mile bike ride raising money for missions.

Obviously, it was much easier for us to take the two babies to our conference than for John and Frank to each strap a child to their back packs.  The only difficulty?  Spencer and Abigail are so adorable that every woman at the conference wanted to squeeze them!

Joy had capable assistants in the form of aunties: MeaMea and KK.  Spencer's favorite nursery grandma, Joyce.  Playmates, Cuddlers, Rule Ignorers, Cartoon Voice Imitators, Special Food Providers.......and those were just the twenty-two ladies from Garden Grove Church!! 

Needless to say, Spencer and Abigail were not lacking for entertainment, attention or love this weekend.

At one point, I circled around the back of the auditorium to step outside and Spence spotted me coming toward him.  Before Joy could grab him, he took off running toward me on his chubby little legs.  Eyes lit up like Christmas; arms reaching; tiny voice yelling.  Over the sound of 1,500 women singing all I could hear was, "Nonni!  Nonni!"

I stopped in my tracks and bent down to hug the most precious little boy on earth!

As we walked down the long corridors, people would routinely be taken in by Abby's big blue eyes or Spencer's wide smile.  They would slow down to say something and Spencer would beat them to it by waving and saying loudly, "HI!"

He has become extremely verbal, especially in the past few weeks.

He went into Frank's office last Sunday and when Frank said out of habit, "Spencer!  How are you?"  Spencer replied right on cue, "GOOD!"

"Did you hear that?!"  Frank yelled in surprise.  "I certainly did," I replied. "He's brilliant!"  Spencer looked around as if to say, "What's the big deal?"

We are southern people living in a southern culture where it's still preferable that children respond to adults with ma'am and sir.  So, Joy has been working with him already.  "Do you want another bite of chicken?"  "Esss Mum!"  "Do you want to ride with Daddy?"  "Ess Hur!"

(I have a huge, silly grin on my face right now as I write this for you!)

After staff meeting last week, John played a video that Joy had just text to him.  Spencer looked straight into the phone camera and said, "Hi, Dad!  I wuv ooo!"  We stopped playing it back once everyone in the office had enjoyed it at least twice.

I won't overwhelm you with illustrations using all his vocabulary that now exceeds 75 words. (Wait, did that sound slightly braggadocios?  Sorry.)   But now you'll understand where I'm going with the peas and tanks.

A while back, Spencer was wanting something that Joy didn't intend to give him.  After waiting a while, he came back to her, looked up with those huge round eyes and earnestly said, "Peas, Tanks, Ooo Elcome!"
He pulled out all the politeness he had in his arsenal. 

Of course, Joy caved immediately!  What's the use of being consistent if you can't opt out occasionally?

His tiny voice has reminded me of when his aunts were my babies.  Aunt Kristin who said, "I Yove Louu!"  Aunt Meagan who frantically screamed, "Boop On!  Boop On!"  until we realized that she was trying to get us to beep the horn while driving through a tunnel.  

I'd love to hear about the favorite phrases and quotes of your little ones.  Even if they're now adults with their own babies.  

Peas have a blessed Sunday.  And Tanks for taking time to read today!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Preaching. Planning. Praying.

I often wonder who I am at my very core!  Don't you?

What would we say or do if we weren't able to keep our "Polite 'n Proper Mask" tightly fitted?

My grandmother didn't accept Christ as Savior until her late thirties.  By that time, Grandma Miller had lived a lot of life; not all of it pristine!  She had been one saucy lady!

But she came to love Jesus even more passionately and set a new course for her descendants.  (One of which was me.)

In her later years, Alzheimer's began to steal the Grandma we knew.   Her behavior changed; especially toward my mom.  Caring for Grandma became a ministry of sheer love and determination that my mom, an only child, gave gladly.

One funny moment we all remember took place when Frank, the girls and I came home for a visit from NC.

Grandma always called Frank "Jeff" because that was the name of the last boyfriend she could recall.  (Mine, not hers.)  Frank would graciously respond and never took offense.  After all he got the girl, not Jeff!

The morning after we arrived for our visit, Frank met Grandma coming toward him in the hallway and she reached up to pat his face.  He stopped to let the precious, wrinkled and pillowy hands embrace his cheeks.  "Good morning, Grandma."

She looked into his eyes, gave a warm smile and tenderly crooned, "Jeff, you are the sweetest little Son of a Gun I ever saw!"  (Except she didn't say Gun!)

Yep, that would be MY grandma without her "Polite 'n Proper Mask."

Fortunately, we had all grown up hearing Grandma talk candidly to Jesus.  We had seen her acts of kindness.  We had observed her as she chose to forgive others.  We witnessed her generosity.  We knew Grandma - and that wasn't really her!

When my friend, Lisa, sat with Hospice two weeks ago she faced the question on behalf of her husband. 

"Your husband has tumors on his brain," the nurse said.  "As he nears the end, you should expect that he will likely say things you aren't accustomed to hearing.  Just remember it's not him, it's the illness causing him to talk like that."

Brent has pastored for many years!  Talking was part of what he did for a living!  He was known as an encourager of anyone he came into contact with!  Words!  Powerful Words!  Intentional Words!

Lisa said she knew that Brent would be mortified if his final words were hurtful or inappropriate!

The last night before Brent was moved to the Hospice facility, the pain became intolerable.  Lisa requested a nurse come to their home.

With the nurse's help, they finally got the pain to a more manageable level.  And then Lisa said an amazing thing happened.

Brent's core took over! 

He started preaching.  He preached for several minutes to what must have been a crowd of angels. 

Then he abruptly switched to planning.

Lisa said she listened to his one-sided conversation as he gave directions, "Yes, we need to take care of that right away.  Let's get moving on it now.  Great!  I can see about that tomorrow."  And on it went.

Next, he began to pray.  His prayer covered many things.  He talked with God just as he had almost all his life.

Suddenly he went back to preaching.  Then planning.  Then praying.  The cycle continued for some time.

At one point the nurse interrupted, "Brent!  Are you aware that it's one in the morning?!" 

Lisa said Brent stopped mid-sentence, looked up at the nurse and said, "You have lovely eyebrows!  Doesn't she, Lisa?  Look at her eyebrows!"

Preaching.  Planning.  Praying.  Encouraging.

Brent's final words were too personal to share on a public platform such as this.  But let me assure you, they brought tears to our eyes as Lisa relayed them to us.

Preaching.  Planning.  Praying.  Encouraging.

Brent Page finished as he lived!  What a testimony!