Thursday, February 28, 2013

Truck Driving Angel

I just realized that today is the last day of February and I haven't recorded a Hawley family miracle for this month yet.  So here you go........

On February 8, 1983 I went for my prenatal check up with Dr. Wilson, one of Asheville's finest Ob/Gyns.  Only one month til the due date and we were incredibly excited!  

Frank and I listened to the strong heartbeat of our baby.  And smiled knowing that "Joshua Franklin" would soon burst onto the scene, full of life!  

(We had already painted and prepared our blue nursery.  Ultra-sounds of that time revealed little more than extremities and beating hearts.  We painted the nursery blue three times.  As most of you know, we were blessed to have three daughters - no sons!)

Dr. Wilson grabbed our attention with a startling statement, "If I were on call, we'd go ahead and have this baby tonight!"

Smiles froze!  Breathing stopped!  Somewhere a clock ticked! Everything went into slow motion!

TONIGHT?  Did she just say this baby could be born...........TONIGHT?!!!

Frank and I stumbled out of the office and made the long drive home. Once inside, I immediately lay down on the couch and put my feet up.  Way up.  Like keep the baby steady, up!

We were not emotionally prepared for a baby to arrive just yet!

But two days later things began happening.  Contractions started making regular appearances.  Every ten minutes, regular.  

We called our doctor's office fully expecting to be told to wait and make the forty-five minute drive to the  hospital the next morning.  We'd heard all the horror stories of first time parents rushing to the hospital multiple times only to be stamped - "False Alarmists!" 

Not me.  I wasn't going to the hospital until it was absolutely necessary.  I might be young and inexperienced but no one was going to accuse me of confusing indigestion with labor pains!  No way!

"How far apart are the contractions now?" the nurse sounded casual.

"Oh, about seven minutes," I tried to match her tone.

"How long have they been consistent like that?"  she sounded a little more interested.

I scanned the paper we'd been using for recording purposes.  "Oh, hour........I guess."

"Mrs. Hawley.  A storm front is approaching our area.  We will have blizzard-like conditions very shortly.  You need to get to the hospital before it's too late."  Now the nurse sounded insistent and pretty intense!

"Well, you know this is my first baby and I don't want to seem......."

"Mrs. Hawley!"  she interrupted urgently.  "You need to get to the hospital now!  Before that baby has to be delivered by firemen!"

"Oh. Oh, okay,"  I stammered.  "We'll be there as soon as possible."

The craziness began - phone calls to parents; dog delivered to sitter; call to the church board!  At long last, Frank gingerly escorted me to the car, threw my suitcase in the back, dashed around to the driver's side and we were off!  

Contractions now five minutes apart.

The snow was already several inches deep as we nosed onto the highway leading to Asheville.  We didn't have chains; we barely had tires on our old sedan.  Frank creeped along trying to see past the windshield wipers slapping full tilt!

The storm was directly over us dumping massive amounts of  fluffy white precipitation! What normally delighted this Florida transplant, now seemed dangerous and even menacing.

Ours was the only car on the four lane highway.  My young husband, who normally loved driving, sat hunched forward; hands gripping the wheel; eyes focused straight ahead.  This was serious!  So I started praying silently.  

"Oh Father, I don't want a fireman to deliver this baby.  I don't want to be stranded on this road.  Please, help us get to the hospital in time!  Please Lord, help us make it to the hospital safely!"

Just then, from out of nowhere, came an eighteen wheel tractor trailer rig.  The massive unit not only had tires, there were nine sets of chains cutting a distinct ditch through the ice and snow.

Frank wasted no time in directing our car up and over the embankment,  positioning our own tires in the ruts created by the huge truck.  

We didn't talk; too distracting.  It felt like we barely breathed for the next hour as the tractor trailer cut the path directly toward.........the Asheville hospital!  Frank stayed precisely one car length behind!  

Slowly, cautiously the truck crept along making tracks that held our car on that dangerous mountain road.

When it became apparent that we would get to the hospital in time, we began to wonder how we could make the truck driver aware of the miracle he'd helped to provide.  But the hospital exit appeared and we realized  that our truck driving angel would journey on...........completely unaware.

Frank flashed his headlights as a "thank you" while he eased our car up and over the snow trench.

In just a few short hours, Kristin Nicole rested peacefully in my arms while I rested against Frank.  We marveled at the beauty of our 6lb.7oz. baby girl; whispering so as not to disturb her slumber.

"I'm so thankful that God sent that truck driver at exactly the right moment.  Without his help, I'm not sure we would have gotten here in time."  Frank finally gave voice to what we had both sensed.

"I wish there was some way to let him know.  Some way to say thank you!"  I smiled down at Kristin's perfect features.

Frank had a stroke of genius, "Write an article, Baby!  You can write an article telling what happened and make it an encouragement to anyone who drives a truck for a living!"

It took thirty years, but here it is.  Thank you, from the Hawleys!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Caught or Taught?

I woke wrangling with the terrible question that plagues every mother for almost as long as she’s a mother………Have I taught my children the right things?
Some of you will find it odd that I still struggle with that even though all my children are gainfully employed; spiritually grounded; voting citizens.  (In other words – ADULTS.)

But it’s true.  Nothing causes my stomach to churn quite like this singular moment of introspection. 

These children came into my life as almost a blank canvas.  It has been my responsibility to teach manners, perspective, love for God, responsibility, HYGENE! 

And when you serve as both home school teacher AND church leader?!  (Which I did for the better part of my girls’ lives.)  Let me tell you, the potential for feeling like a failure skyrockets! 

If they struggle in life, if they feel poorly equipped in any area, there’s no one to blame but Mom!

(Of course, the enemy of our souls knows our vulnerable points and he hammers them ruthlessly.) 

That’s why I woke at 5:11 this morning and immediately started praying!
  • I prayed for the three girls that were originally placed in our care.
  • I prayed for the two men in our realm of influence - their husbands.
  • I prayed for the precious grandchildren we want to spoil.
  • I prayed that God would forgive my short comings and bless them all anyway!

As I finally poured a cup of coffee to accompany my rambling thoughts/prayers/concerns, my phone signaled that I had a text message coming in.

It was from Amanda who spent five years working/living very closely with us.  At 6:00 AM she wrote from her home in NC:

“This morning I got up for quiet time as silently as possible. (One of her youth girls had spent the night.)  I eased the door of her room closed, turned on the living room lamp, got my favorite blanket and sat down with my Bible; warming my cheek with my coffee cup.  I’m thankful for the habits I caught from you.  Strange to be the one in the living room…..”

Such timely words for my concerned mind. 

It’s true.  In this life journey, more is caught than taught!  That’s why it’s so important that we spend more time living the life we want imitated than crafting arguments against behaviors we don’t like.

It’s also true that even though we're "The MOM," we're still just like our children – imperfect human beings!  Our only hope for improvement there is to request help daily from the God who made us in the first place.  (And I, for one, am very appreciative of all the help He gives!!)

Gotta run now.  I really need some time with the favorite blanket, a cheek-warming cup of coffee and my Bible. 

Hope your day is blessed!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Now That's a Valentine!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s pretty early as I write this and Gracie is serving as my number one snuggle-bug.  She’s curled beside me on the love seat; enjoying the coziness of my beautiful lap quilt.  Totally rotten dog!

I opened my journal this morning and found a quote by Hans Christian Andersen that made me laugh out loud.  “Enjoy life.  There’s plenty of time to be dead.”  Obviously Gracie has read Mr. Andersen because she definitely enjoys her life!

Last night at Bible study we sang Happy Birthday to a precious lady who turns 60 today.  It reminded me of one of my earliest crushes from fourth grade.  He was born on Valentine’s Day too. 

His mother must have been a romantic soul; she named her baby boy “James Valentino Graf”!  And he did the best he could to live up to that name, even in elementary school.  I can’t imagine what a charmer he became once his voice changed!

Since I was teaching at Bible study last night, I took a moment to recount my first Valentine’s Day as Frank Hawley’s object of affection.  (That man went to great lengths to win my heart!  His college room mate even wrote about it in one of his earliest books.  Sure glad he’s still at it; winning my heart, that is!)

Mom and dad had driven down to Southeastern University to be with me for Homecoming and it was the first time they’d met Frank.  Dad shook his hand then set about trying to ignore him.

But Mom seemed to see the handwriting on the wall, as mothers often do.  She and I strolled arm in arm across campus, discussing all that was going on in my life.  Classes, upcoming graduation, future plans, funny stories, a mission trip opportunity.  Mom had always been my best friend and most reliable sounding board.

“Sheri, tell me about this guy, Frank Hawley.  He seems very interested!”  Her big brown eyes zeroed in.

We stepped into the cool entryway of Bethany Hall.  “Oh, Mom,” I chided her.  “We just enjoy hanging out with one another.  He's a great guy and a good friend.  But don’t worry; it’s not that serious.”

At that very moment we turned the corner leading to my room and stopped dead in our tracks.  Both of our mouths dropped open.  I gasped out loud!

Covering my dorm room door was a Valentine SIX FEET TALL!  

Entirely handmade with intricate stitching.  The white felt background was covered with red felt cupids, hearts, designs and a red-lettered message.  “Be My Valentine!” seemed to literally boom and echo throughout the dormitory.

(Being a poor ministry student, Frank had recruited help from our friend Tricia who had her sewing machine at school.  They had worked for days; cutting, stitching, creating!)

In the very center of the massive missive, a huge red heart-pocket cleverly held an adorable stuffed bear.  The bottom of the Valentine touched the tile floor and served as backdrop for a stunning arrangement of long-stemmed red roses, as well as a huge box of chocolates.

Mom and I just stood there dumb-struck for several moments.  When I finally came to my senses, a silly grin had spread across my face and I turned to look at my mother.  Her eyebrows were raised.  A hand sat squarely on her hip.  She made one simple statement, “Not that serious, huh?!”

Oh, the wisdom of Mamas!  Here I am, thirty-four Valentines later!

Hope your day is bigger than life, knowing that you are part of the greatest love story of all time.  The love story of God, who sent His own son to tell you of His undying affection and commitment! 

Now that’s Serious!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

He Sees!

I am so very happy to be back on line!

For the week that Embrace the Grace was out of commission  I felt like....
  • like my favorite coffee cup was broken.  
  • No, like my favorite bedroom shoes had been eaten.  
  • No, like my favorite pillow had been left at some hotel.
  • No, I felt like.....well, I don't know what I felt like but it wasn't pleasant I assure you!
NOO, like everything was slightly ASKEW!  That's it, slightly askew!

In order to properly celebrate, I want to share with you another miracle story from the Hawley Chronicles.

The God Who Sees

We became evangelists in the summer of 1999.  Blissfully ignorant.  Totally compelled.  Living a dream.  That's how we saw it.  

And I don't mean that Frank and I became evangelists - this was a calling for the entire clan. The girls were 16, almost 14, and 11. (Only Meagan had the good sense to be a little reticent.)  

But the excitement of the unknown drew us.  And more importantly, we felt God sending us out with a message, "Your family is worth fighting for!"  We learned several songs.  We coordinated some clothing.  We called some pastor friends.  And off we went!

One smallish problem......our van only cranked when IT wanted to.  No problem.  We'll travel in the Taurus until God provides something bigger.  (For those of you who don't know car models, a Taurus was a mid-size sedan.  It supposedly seated five.  But the fifth person actually sat on a hump in the middle of the back seat.)

Two things became apparent right away:
  1. God was calling us to this; our calendar filled up quickly with church services!
  2. All three girls were done with taking their turn on "the hump" in the back seat!
So we found a used van in Wilmington that would more than meet our needs and bought it.  (That purchase is another miracle story all its own.  Another time.)

We journeyed on in the gift God provided for almost a year.  Ample room.  A video player.  Great sound system for rehearsals while traveling.  That van provided comfortable transportation for our first 60,000 miles as Family to Family Ministries.

As it was nearing the 100,000 mile mark, we were nearing the conclusion that it was time to invest in a home on wheels.  An extended cab dually truck and an affordable fifth wheel RV became our search focus.  

Once the truck was purchased, we began trying to sell the van.  But the high mileage seemed a real turn off for potential buyers.  

For six months we struggled to make payments on both vehicles.  Certainly not an easy feat when your weekly income is entirely dependent on the generosity of the church where you just sang.  Each month seemed more impossible than the last!

That's when we encountered a man in one of our services who dealt in used vehicle sales.  "Bring it to me," he said.  "I'll sell it for you right away and get top dollar!"


That very week, Frank and I made the four hour round trip drive delivering the van to him.  We drove away from his house feeling like a huge weight had been lifted!

"This is a beautiful vehicle in excellent condition!" he enthused.  "I'll have it sold in NO time!" 

But four more months the van sat!  Four more payments to eek out of our limited funds.  Each week we called and each week he assured us he was even closer finding a buyer. 

Finally it became apparent that we needed to bring the van home and try again ourselves to sell it.  The dealer insisted on leaving it in a mall parking lot instead of meeting us himself.  Odd.  When we got to the van, we quickly discovered why he was avoiding us.

The odometer revealed that the trusted, church-attending, car dealer had been driving our van as his own.  He had even used it to make a trip from NC to FL.  (The score card for his golf game was in the pocket of the back seat.)

Total shock and disappointment! We had put our trust in this person and had been duped!  We felt so foolish!

After we got back to Mom and Dad Hawley's (where we'd left the girls) Frank called us all together.  He had spent the drive time home in prayer and had made a determination.  

We shared the dilemma with the girls because we wanted them to pray with us for a solution.  (A word to parents - prayers answered builds faith in children too!) 

"This man took advantage of us, it's true." Frank spoke to us in measured tones. "But we are going to pray that God will bless him in spite of this.  And we're not going to rehearse it to others.  God has made clear to me that He will take care of us if we'll just obey and not defame this man."

What we wanted to do was string him up!!

But the man was well known by many of the pastors we would be visiting and we had clear instructions from above to keep quiet.  Our obedience was tested multiple times.  Several pastors knew of our need to sell the van and they would ask, "So, has ------ sold your van yet?  We've been praying with you that he will!"  

Frank would shoot a look at us that said, "God has promised to take care of us!"  Then he would answer, "No, he didn't.  We've decided to try again ourselves."  And that's where it would drop.

The van finally sold - at a great loss.  When all was tallied, we carried that payment almost two years!

Fast forward to 2006.

We had been pastors of Garden Grove Church for just over a year.  This pastorate has been a beautiful marriage since the very beginning.  We've loved the people and they have loved us!

Pastor Appreciation Day of that year was a benchmark, miracle day and the short version is this:  
          God gave a man in the congregation a  dream that the church gave us a vehicle.  He pitched 
           the idea to the board.  They pitched it to the congregation.  They decided to attempt raising money for it and just see what God would do! 

In SIX WEEKS they raised enough money to purchase a gently used Tahoe!  

(Please be aware that we have no wealthy people in our congregation.  This was a miracle of Biblical proportions!  Yes, I'll record that miracle another day, too.)

Pastor Appreciation Day found all of us standing on the parking lot sobbing and praising God and celebrating His miracle-working power!

Now fast forward another month.

I'm driving down Cypress Gardens Boulevard once again thanking the Lord for the MIRACLE of this beautiful vehicle!  "Oh Lord, this Tahoe truly is exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or even imagine!  You are so faithful to your promises! What a great God You are!!"

That's when I sensed the quiet whisper to my heart, "Didn't I promise to take care of you if you would obey me?"

"Oh yes, Lord!  And You certainly have!"  I wasn't on the same page.

Another quiet whisper, "I asked you to be generous toward the car salesman who took advantage of you. I asked you not to rehearse his dishonesty. You obeyed.  This is the reward I had in mind.  I love you, Little One!"

The tears began to flow freely.  I had completely forgotten!  But God had not forgotten!

He is the God who sees!  That's what Hagar called Him in Genesis.  He sees.  He marks our moments of obedience.  He rewards those who seek Him.  

That Tahoe is still running!  We've topped 206,000 miles now and it cranks faithfully every single morning!  

Obedience is always important.  Seldom easy.  Sometimes nearly impossible.  But His rewards far surpass the struggle!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Oh, thank heavens!! 

I once was lost but now I'm found!!  (Literally and figuratively!)

Embrace the Grace disappeared for several days because of my serious technological ineptitude.  (In other words, the button I normally push to post something quit working entirely and no matter how loudly I yelled or how intensely I pounded - it didn't respond at all!)

Yesterday my wonderful husband (who knows what matters to me) began covertly working to restore Embrace the Grace.  (Such a Good, GOOD man!)

Just now he walked in and announced, "Okay, you're back on.  Sit down right now and write!"  Like it was no big deal at all.

But such a very big deal for me!

I have no time at all to compose anything of substance; we're smack in the middle of this renovation for the church.  But I did want to say a huge, "YIPPEE!! Embrace the Grace is back!"

Thank you each one for stopping by here!  I can not express how wonderful it feels to know you miss this blog when it's not around.  Thank you!  Thank you!!