Monday, December 31, 2012


December 30th marked 33years of marriage for the Reverends Hawley!

And oddly enough, we were married on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM central time.  All through the day yesterday, I couldn't help but think about that wonderful wedding day - thirty-three years ago. 

Frank, the handsome groom.  Sheri, the nervous bride.  Gowns.  Tuxes.  Flowers.  Friends.  Family.  Perfection!

Because music was such a huge part of both our lives, Frank wrote a song for the ceremony.  His college room mate helped compose a beautiful number using phrases from Proverbs 31. 

Robert, such a good friend, agreed to cut his Christmas vacation short in order to be at the wedding.  He accompanied Frank on the acoustic guitar. 

When the doors to the sanctuary swung open, Frank began singing to me as I came down the aisle.  The melody was haunting.  His voice filled the room.  Hankies were being passed around.  I was mesmerized. 

As in our courtship, Frank literally drew me toward him!  Still makes me smile to remember.

One anniversary, as we listened to the recording of our ceremony, I realized that the intro was repeated.  "Why did Robert repeat the introduction?"  I asked. I knew they had practiced until the piece was perfect. 

Frank smiled and dropped his head like an embarrassed school boy.  "When the doors opened and I caught my first glimpse of you, I was so blown away that I forgot to start singing."  

Well, who can complain about imperfection with an answer like that?!  Certainly not me!

And here we are, thirty-three years later, still in love. 

Complimentary tickets afforded us the privilege of visiting Sea World yesterday.  Along with Shamu, sharks and dolphins, there were several excellent Christmas shows.  Each performance was just filled with great music. 

One of the numbers we heard was "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."  That's what Frank and I chose for our wedding recessional.  Our first steps as husband and wife were taken with a musical foundation declaring our love, adoration and dependence on Christ Jesus.

Some might read that statement and think it a bit cheesy.  But even in our naive state as young 20-somethings, we somehow sensed that marital success would only come from such a foundation.

All these years later, we no longer sense it..............we KNOW it!

Last night certainly wasn't perfect.  The park was jam-packed with everyone trying to use their season tickets just one more time before 2013.  We were told that five thousand people crowded into one of the shows we saw.  Almost 20,000 were in the park!

And it was unbelievably cold for FL!  Especially sitting in outside theaters.  Waiting over an hour for each show to start.  On metal bleachers. With wind blowing like monsoon season.

And THEN, Shamu had the audacity to S.P.L.A.S.H. the area where we were sitting!  I threw my coat up over our faces just in time to shield us from the worst of it! 

We probably should have given up and gone home.  But how often does imperfection yield such a funny story that we'll tell for years to come?! 

And after the shock, the laughter was rich.  The show went on.  The stunts were breath-taking.  The trouble was soon forgotten.  Overcome by the next great song; the next marvelous moment.

So we stayed right there until the fireworks display that took place well after my normal bedtime.  Impractical?  Yes!  But I'm so glad we chose to stay!  The fireworks show was worth every bit of inconvenience!

And just in case you wonder, our marriage hasn't been perfect either!

We've slogged our way through some difficult times.  Times when we loved each other.  We were committed to each other.  But we sure didn't LIKE each other very much! 

(Brutally honest!  Totally truthful!)

Selfishness.  Pride.  Unforgiveness.  Stubbornness.  They've had the audacity to splash over our marital joy. 

Sometimes, it's been tempting to "give up and go home." 

But after the storm, after forgiveness, the relationship is much richer.  Life goes on.  The miracle moments are breath-taking.  The trouble is soon overcome by the next marvelous adventure.

And truth be known, I wouldn't want to miss out on experiencing the fireworks show for anything!  The good times are always worth any "inconvenience" we experienced getting there!  I'm always so glad we chose to stay with it.

Frank often says, "God is Faithful and you can Trust Him!"

I guess that homespun wisdom comes from a journey of experience.  We have walked many miles together.  Much of our journey has been over incredibly imperfect terrain. And we're totally aware that two imperfect people are the ones walking.

But our travel Companion is not only Faithful and Trust-worthy, He's also a perfect foundation making a good marriage possible!

Happy Anniversary, Honey!  Yes, I'd marry you again in a heart beat!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Laziness and Snow


I have officially achieved my goal for the day and it's only 11:30 in the morning!  I've waited all year to tap the LAZY button on my calendar and today is the day.

I'm sitting in the recliner, favorite lap quilt, cup of tea, Christmas music playing.  Gracie flanks me on the right, tucked as tightly as a little Shih Tzu possibly can.  Bella has flopped down to warm my feet; occasionally rolling over for a belly scratch.  Vegetable soup is ready to warm up; the washer and dryer are humming in harmony.

I AM EXPERIENCING - LAZINESS!  And it is indeed delicious!

While Christmas plans were being made, we knew that a visit to Mom and Dad Hawley was a non-negotiable. But I just didn't have one more road trip in me this year.  So Frank flew.

And although I hate not having time with my dear family in NC and although all our children are traveling or working and although I'm rarely alone like this.......I'm doing just fine.

A dear friend of ours once said he didn't feel like he was truly on vacation until he hit the point were he was bored.  Well Bill, I'm not bored but I do feel wonderfully lazy!

I had promised you another Christmas Miracle story from the Hawley Archives.  Because so many of you are experiencing snow storms right now, this one seemed most appropriate -

Christmas Kiss from Heaven

In June of 1993, we left Asheville, NC (our home of twelve years) and moved to Brunswick County to pioneer a church.  The fledgling congregation of twelve people had contacted our state office and asked that someone be sent to oversee the work.  

It took a lot of courage and a definite call to uproot our family and move to that rural community on the coast.  When friends would ask where Ocean Isle Beach was we responded truthfully, "Go to the edge of the earth and take a left!"  

We left behind the team we'd been part of for nine years.  All three girls had been born in Asheville.  We loved the city, the people, the mountains, the weather, the events, the church family!  

So why move?  Because we sensed God's quiet whisper that the next chapter of our life story was to be written six hours away from what had become our safety net.  

So we moved.

We included the girls in our plans from the earliest possible moment.  (Kristin, who was only ten, actually knew first and kept it a secret for a month!  Not many adults can claim that level of confidence keeping.)

Our senior pastor supported the move.   He facilitated lavish encouragement given by the congregation we'd served for nine years.  After parties and dinners and play-dates and a massive reception, we tearfully bade farewell.

(The greatest comfort afforded us was the incredible act of courage displayed by two dear friends.  The Sheppards quit their jobs and moved with us to help launch this pioneer effort!  A year later they moved on to Nashville, TN.  But those twelve months kept us on course!  Without their help, the church probably wouldn't have made it.  I know I wouldn't have!)

The girls worked hard at adapting.  They too left behind friends, a great school, a church that offered the very BEST in children's ministry.  People that had known and loved them since they were first born.  We were thankful that they had one another!

Frank went to work growing a congregation; I went to work trying to learn how to home school.  We all had to work at being okay with the barest of necessities!  

There was no guaranteed salary with this pioneer work.  Church bills came first, of course.  Then a stipend for the pastor if anything was left over.  

Don't you have parts of your life where you look back and think, "HOW in the world did we make it?!"  

Yep, us too!

But with God's grace, many unexpected offerings in the mail and a great knowledge of how to prepare tuna, we kept afloat.

As that first Christmas rolled around, we found ourselves lonely and discouraged.  The church had only grown to about sixty people.  We felt very isolated.  We knew the parties and plays and festivities we were missing in Asheville.  And mostly, it was just too warm at the beach for Christmas.  

Meagan was only five and worried aloud about how it would ever snow in this place.  "Well, Sweetheart, it doesn't snow here.  Remember, we talked about that before we moved?  But we get to enjoy the beach any time we want."       

"Mama!" Her little girl voice held the sound of a reprimand. "The beach is where you take a vacation.  It isn't where you LIVE!"  (Meagan has never had trouble expressing her mind!)

 "Well, Baby, it's where we live now."  I couldn't come up with anything more eloquent that the plain 'ol facts.  

December 25th rapidly approached and our hearts grew heavier with each passing day.  Resources were so limited!  The girls would have had almost NO Christmas that year if it hadn't been for a wonderful group of ladies in New Bern, NC.  

Those church ladies "adopted" our precious girls and sent two boxes loaded with school supplies and treats. Frank and I quickly wrapped each item and placed them all under the tree.  Such an answer to prayer!

Our Christmas would take place about three days early as we were traveling to my parents' home that year. So on the appointed evening, we marked Christmas Eve with all our regular traditions.  Each girl opened one preselected gift, we sang, we told stories, we watched a Christmas movie, then put our angels to bed. 

Frank and I stepped out on to the porch for a minute.  The overcast skies foretold that our Christmas morning would probably be a rainy one. 

"Well, great!"  I thought.  "Now they won't even be able to enjoy being outside tomorrow!  No snow, no friends, no play time!  Just rain!  Lord, do you remember that YOU sent us here?!"  

I didn't really expect a response.

Three tousled heads peeked into our room very early the next morning.  "Merry Christmas!!!"  The drizzling outside didn't dampen their spirits. There were presents to unwrap and they were ready to get to it!  

The rain did bring in some colder air, at least, making a fire in the fireplace possible.  Everyone got quiet while Frank read the Christmas Story from Luke 2 one more time.  We thanked the Lord for the gift of His Son, for our fireplace, for the gifts the women's group had sent and for the great cinnamon buns we had waiting.  (Children are thankful for all sorts of things.)

And that's when it happened.  

"LOOK!!" Frank startled me with his loud command.  "Girls, look outside!  Quick!  Everybody grab a jacket!!  Hurry, it won't last long!!" 

Instead of the rain, huge white flakes were pouring down in our front yard! We all rushed outside with our mouths hanging open in surprise.  The girls squealing with delight!  Our dog jumping and barking! 

It was snowing at the beach!  

The ground soon looked like powdered sugar.  And the flakes were big enough to be caught on little tongues of excited little girls.

Now it really felt like Christmas!

We hustled back in to the living room to open the packages under the tree.  More squealing and laughter!  We drank apple cider and ate cinnamon buns.  And just as our festivities concluded, the snow stopped.  

Someone immediately said, "Look how much God loves us!  He sent snow to the beach just for us!  Just for our Christmas!"

I couldn't testify to that in a court of law.  But the facts are as follows:
  • My babies were really missing their mountain home that Christmas.
  • It really did snow at the beach on the morning we were celebrating.
  • It really didn't snow another time during our six years in Ocean Isle.
  • God really does love all His children just that much.
I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions!  



Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Joy

"Here we come a caroling among the (something something) so green!"

Just realized that although that tune plays often in my head at Christmas time, I don't think I've ever known the words!  (If you haven't watched the movie Little Women, you simply must!  Maybe you'll be able to pick up the lyrics and help me.)

Let me say - MERRRRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

I certainly hope that your home and hearth and hearts are experiencing more of the true joy to be found in this season.

We've already had our Hawley/Schreck/Smith Christmas to accommodate travel plans for the marrieds.  Spencer's enthusiasm over both toys AND boxes was simply delicious!

The last of the Christmas parties took place Wednesday. 

Our final outreach was last Saturday.  (We had the privilege of hosting over 700 children while their parents "shopped" among gifts provided by area churches and businesses.) 

The Smiths were safely delivered to the airport yesterday and are even now being squeezed until their eyes bulge by their NC family. 

The final decorating project will be tomorrow in preparation for Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. 

Only one more shopping run takes place today after which, the last presents will be wrapped and placed under the tree.

I feel the sigh of relief and contentment building in my weary little chest!

Of course, there will be a shadow of sadness for us all this year as we pray for the families of Newtown!  With no sense to be made of such horror and tragedy, prayer is our most effect show of empathy!

And for the others among us who have lost loved ones, we offer hugs and words of support.  That void is felt most keenly as we walk through the traditions and family gatherings they enjoyed with us.

On the day that marked four years since Mom's passing, I was busy hosting widows from our church for a Christmas brunch.  Such a privilege! 

While putting away the dishes and swiping at tears, I sensed that Mom would have been so very pleased.  No better way to honor her memory than by loving on other ladies just as she would have!

And I guess that's probably my theme.  Henri Nouwen put it well, "Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day."

I have another wonderful Christmas miracle story to share in my next post. (Thanks for so many encouraging comments on the Christmas Cookie story.  One lady even copied it and put it in her greeting cards.)  But today it felt important to quickly jump on line and send out a blog post hug.

In the marvelous words of Tiny Tim - "God bless us, every one!!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



We sang that several ways at our house last night.  We had balloons, cake, confetti, streamers, candles..........all the trappings of a proper birthday party.

Who was born on December 10th?  None of my family!

(And no, it wasn't a birthday party for Jesus either.  Although we will have a cake when we do our celebration to help Spencer grasp the meaning of Christmas.)

So why a birthday party?!

Well, lest you become discouraged about your own mistakes, mess ups, missed opportunities - I've come to offer you hope and encouragement today!

Last night we were finally having the birthday celebration for:
  • John whose birthday is July 2nd!  
  • Joy - born on August 8th!  
  • Nathan - born September 18th!  
  • And Meagan - born December 20th!

Yes, it's true.  The year 2012 was almost remembered as my year of epic failure serving in the capacity of  -  Leader of All Things Celebratory!! 

"Good grief, Sheri!  Aren't these your own children?!" you ask with shock and dismay.

Yes, as a matter of fact they are! 

"Did you forget?  Were you incapacitated?  Were you at least out of the country when these birthdays occurred?!" 

Nope, none of the above!

I stand before you today as a woman without excuse!  

The simple truth?  When life rolls this fast, some things inevitably get pushed to the back burner.  And sad to say, in our family for the year 2012, that was every single birthday after February!

And in an attempt at full disclosure - every birthday would have been skipped entirely had it not been for Kristin who said, "This tradition must be salvaged!  We can not finish the year without marking days of birth!"  So........

  • She set the date for happy hooraying.
  • She delegated menu selections.
  • She uncovered birthday wishes.
  • She purchased final gifts.  (Some we've had in our closet since before their special days.  I didn't forget entirely.)
  • She wrapped said items.
  • She decorated the dining room.
  • She placed the candle numbers "1.0.4." on the cake Meagan baked.  (The total of their birthday ages.)
My part?  I made tacos and held babies and smiled a lot and tried not to feel guilty!

We ended the night by going around the living room giving words of blessing/affirmation.  (A tradition we picked up from another family.  Each celebrator present shares a word or phrase expressing a characteristic they appreciate about the birthday celebra-tee.  It's become something we all look forward to!)

Just as things were concluding someone said, "Hey, wait a minute!  We never got to celebrate Mom's birthday this year either!"

(Frank had taken care of that with a special dinner in Orlando and the most marvelous gift of dance lessons! Which we look forward to taking in January.)

Right there, on the spot, my precious family forgave my epic failure as Leader of All Things Celebratory and lavished words of encouragement on me too!

(So, if I miss your birthday, please don't be offended.  Perhaps the greater surprise should be if I remember!)

And if a family tradition you love and value has to morph this year in order to be accomplished?  Morph away, my friend!  Salvage tradition any way you can! 

Some day your little one will be an adult.  And they will pick up your "tradition slack" and salvage what might have otherwise been lost.
That's why they call it TRADITION!  (Can't you just hear that marvelous tune from "Fiddler on the Roof" right now?!)

Be absolved from all guilt in the matters of tradition failure!  Go forth with renewed zeal!  And if you stumble along the path, simply rehearse this new mantra for yourself - "Well, at least I didn't miss my own child's birthday this year like Sheri did!" 

If my epic failure serves as a benchmark of encouragement, then it won't have been such an epic fail after all! 

Ah, yes!  All things work together for good...............

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Faces of Christmas!


It's here!  Christmas time is finally here!  (Or is it still Christmas from 2011?  Things roll so quickly these days that I sometimes wonder.)

Our decorations are back in place; three parties are completed; family communion at GGC tonight and tomorrow night; already feeling guilty about Christmas cards that haven't been mailed; "It's a Wonderful Life" has been viewed; we're humming White Christmas even though it's 81 degrees here.................  Yep, Christmas Central in full swing!

Frank and I looooooovvvve Christmas!

We started dating just before Christmas.  We married the following December 30th, decorating with Christmas trees and poinsettias.  Meagan was born December 20th eight years later.  We have multiple Christmas Miracles that are part of our family story.  Most of our traditions revolve around Christmas - ornaments, foods, movies and music.

Christmas is MAJOR at the Hawley house! 

With all that emphasis on Christmas you would think December 25th would be kinda sacred for us.  But we've seldom ever opened gifts with our children in our home on that date.  For most of our lives we've lived far away from our extended families. Road trips have almost always been part of the plan. 

And now over half our immediate family also need to be with family in eastern North Carolina and central New York!  Consequently, Christmas Day for us is unlikely to ever fall on December 25th.  Our children will either be with extended family or on their way to extended family or celebrating with their own little family.  

And that's okay with us.

We've celebrated as early as December 18th and as late as January 10th.  We've read the Christmas story together in Florida, North Carolina, and even West Virginia. 

Christmas has nothing to do with the date or location.  It has everything to do with the heart!

I read in Hosea this morning how intentional God has been about relationship with us.  Relationship is His focus, His delight, His work, His reward.  So, I take my cue from the One who initiated this marvelous season.

He put His very best effort into building a bridge of relationship with us.  He sent His Son to a humble stable, to a woman embroiled in controversy, to a world that largely ignored the Gift.  Marked the moment with a star, a choir of angels and some terrified shepherds.   He gave lavishly to show that His heart is for us.

How can I do anything less?

I know of people who suffer and struggle and strangle relationships by demanding that a certain date and a singular location be the one and only opportunity to celebrate Christmas properly.  Christmas, for them, must resemble a Norman Rockwell painting with all participants in perfect order or else all is lost.

Today I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people..........

If Christmas originated in a sheep stall far from Mary's hometown with a questionable cast of characters, perhaps God was sending a message that would resonate with the transient, imperfect people groups of the 21st Century.   (Yes, I know - run-on sentence extraordinaire!)

Leave the perfect painting for the wall!  And embrace your cast of characters in the many locations and on whatever dates He may provide.  Therein lies peace for all men; I promise!

(Wow, this post took a totally different turn from the road I first started on.  Just have to trust that someone needed the message.  I'm also mindful that right now, all our kids live near us.  We call it frosting time as we never expected to have that opportunity.  We mark the bonus and gladly share them any available opportunity with the Smiths and Schrecks!  Blessings on your celebration plans!)