Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hello, Germany!

Okay, I could use a little help today!

Earlier this year, one of the young men from our church showed me a blog tracking device that I had no idea even existed.  With two little clicks, I'm able to see the number of people who have read Embrace the Grace each week.

(For over two years  I thought probably half of the people identified as ones who "follow" might read occasionally.  What a pleasant surprise to find out I was sorely mistaken.)

And with just another click or two, I'm able to see what countries have readers.  Because I've always loved traveling, this is especially exciting for me.  There are readers in such far away places as: Lithuania,  Russia, Philippines, India, and even China!

Frank spent three weeks in China the year after Meagan was born.  He fell in love with the people, the country, the history, especially with Hong Kong.  He came home and promptly promised to take me there some day.

Imagine my joy when I started seeing readers of Embrace the Grace who live in CHINA!  Frank and I go there via internet each week now.

But this week something puzzling showed up on my report.  It showed a HUGE number of readers from Germany.

I haven't been to Germany recently.  I don't know anyone currently living in Germany.  I don't think I have a long lost cousin there.  So..............why the jump?  If you are one of the marvelous German people who have stopped by this site, PLEASE clue me in.  I want to say THANK YOU!

Right after graduating from college I did get to visit Germany.  I was part of a team headed to Greece to assist missionaries for the summer.  It was the trip of a lifetime.

Dr. James Ferrell, who had traveled extensively over the years, led our team.  During one of our earliest planning meetings he pitched a brilliant idea.  We could leave a week early.  Fly into Germany.  Rent a car.  Then drive through Europe experiencing some of the wonders we'd read about all our lives.  Then catch a boat from Italy to Greece.

As education/missions majors we were thrilled with his proposition and jumped on board immediately! 

The "car" was little more than a skate board with a roof.  We slept two nights on the road while taking turns driving.  Several of the stops were just that, STOPS.  Jump out of the car.  Take pictures.  Walk quickly all the way around the site.  Dash to the "facilities;" whatever those may be.  One more picture.  Grab whatever food was available. Cram back into the car.  GO!!

Of course, we all suffered with diarrhea at some point.  Sorry if that's offensive, but every traveler knows it's part of the experience.

I'm not sure what medicine we found at the "pharmacia" but it caused me to fall sound asleep - on a cement dock somewhere in Italy.  (Evidence that when you're young, you can sleep anywhere!)

Right after we left the airport in Germany, I pleaded with Dr. Ferrell and the others to stop for a photo op next to the first road sign we came to.  It was something we did in our family.  We didn't have many pictures at amusement parks (too expensive.)  But we took lots of pictures next to the signs heralding the names of the cities we were visiting.

The team graciously indulged me.  (Maybe they just wanted to stop the whining,  "Puh-leeeeese?!")

"Oh, there's a sign now.  Please stop!!!"

Dr. Ferrell made a split-second, Bond-esque driving move and screeched to a halt on the side of the road.  I jumped out and stood next to the huge sign with the name of the first city on our journey.  I flashed an equally huge grin.  Felt the wind from the cars whipping by on the Autobahn.  Had no idea how dangerous this was.  Ginger snapped the picture.  Back in the clown car and on our way.

I could hardly wait to see that first city!

We drove for over two hours - continuing to see the sign with the city name.  I became puzzled.  This must be a capital or something for them to put the name on the Autobahn so far before you actually reach the city.  On our interstate highways, you would only see the name of a city about sixty miles before getting there.  Hmmmmm.

Finally, the light dawned.  The sign I stood in front of was, "Ausfarht."  (Everyone reading in Germany is already laughing.)  I'd never seen Ausfarht, Germany on a map but I could hardly wait to see it in person.

The problem?   Ausfarht isn't a city at all.  Ausfarht is EXIT in German!

Yes, the first photograph of my European tour is of me standing next EXIT sign.  Oh, what a savvy traveler was I!

I do have another, less embarrassing memory of Germany.  We got off the Autobahn and bought bread and cheese at a roadside stand.  Then we found a bubbling stream with an open, grassy area next to it.  Trees towered over our little group as we sat right on the grass and enjoyed our bread, cheese, and sparkling water together. I remember it like yesterday!

So here I am, thirty-five years later with another German puzzle to be solved.  If you have information that can bring enlightenment, PUH-LEEEEEESE share in the comment box.

I'd be MOST appreciative!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just a Thought

"No Fair!"

"He's not playing nice!"

"It wasn't her turn!"

"That's mine - give it back!"

"I called it first; make him move!"

Sound like your house now that school's out for summer?

I remember those days.  But eventually, children DO grow out of their fierce sense of fairness...............or do they?

Actually, I hear phrases like this pretty often.  Not from children but from adults!

Their verbiage is more mature.  More acceptable.  More politically correct.

But it still stems from the same root.  The root of selfishness.

Attitudes and behaviors that we accept (even expect) from toddlers, creep along behind some people their entire lives.  Sabotaging relationships right into their adult years.

It's like the impeccably groomed business woman.  She marches out of the marble tiled restroom. Dressed in Gucci.  Clicking along the hallway in her Jimmy Choo stilettos.  You want to be just like her.

UNTIL you catch sight of the three foot piece of toilet tissue fluttering behind its secure location on her heel!

(I saw you cringe when you envisioned her!)

When I encounter someone living selfishly I want to hug them and say, "You don't have to live like this!  It's not necessary to constantly play head games and try to look out for yourself!  Don't you see the pain this causes you AND everyone around you?!"

But if they don't wake up with the hug, my human nature kicks in.  Then I find myself wanting to shake them out of the stupor of stupid behavior and choices!

(I know, a little harsh coming from a mild-mannered pastors wife, right?)

But if you could follow me around one day seeing all the people wounded by the selfish choices of others, you'd be a little indignant too.

And it gets worse.  When people live focused on making life better only for themselves, they typically end up being the most unhappy individuals you've ever met!  Trust me, I encounter them routinely.

Have you heard the phrase, "People wrapped up in themselves make a very small package!"?  Good one, right?!

A long time ago I heard someone paint this word picture...........
"What I hold out to others is of great importance.  I try to avoid filling my arms with judgment, unforgiveness and harshness.  Instead, I try to intentionally reach out to both friend and foe with love, acceptance, encouragement.  Then, even if the other individual shoves my "offering" back in my face, I'm covered with love instead of judgment.  Acceptance instead of unforgiveness.  Encouragement instead of harshness."

That's a picture I want for myself!

And when I don't trust my own heart to honestly reveal selfish behavior, I go to a friend.  A true friend will tell you if the toilet paper is trailing behind your shoe!

If you find yourself yelling out the back door, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!"  Stop for one moment and ask, "Am I practicing what I preach?  Do I treat others with the respect and appreciation I feel I deserve?"

Odd post for a lovely summer's day, I know.  But just one that bubbled up out of me today!

Hope your response is "AMEN!"   And not,  "Oh, Me!"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What an Impact!

Heritage is what we receive.  Legacy is what we leave.

Frank and I are at the halfway point in this exchange. 

We've always been fascinated by historical accounts of families and how a path chosen by an early patriarch or matriarch would set a tone that flowed down through many generations.

Early in our marriage, Frank read a comparison of two families from the 18th century.

Susanna Wesley had an unwavering commitment and faith in Christ.  Her prayers and life decisions are credited with influencing sons John and Charles, the founders of the Methodist church.

As the historian went on to recount, their lineage includes public servants in nearly every arena of life.  Ministers, congressmen, judges, doctors, teachers.  Scores of children born into the heritage of Susanna Wesley had a heart to live well and contribute to society.

But there was another family of the same time period - the Jubals - who had a totally different perspective.  The patriarch of the Jubal family made his living as a horse thief.

When studying their lineage, one quickly finds societal trouble-makers of every sort.  Bank robbers, scam artists, outlaws, prisoners, train robbers, the list went on and on.

It didn't take much for the writer to draw a pretty clear conclusion.  Heritage and Legacy are very important matters impacting all of society!

As I said, Frank and I are at the halfway point right now for our family.  We are currently both the "grandparents" and "children."  (Since we're fortunate to still have parents living.)

Father's Day highlights this truth for Frank each year.  He has always had a strong desire to impact others for good.  He feels the weight of that privilege/responsibility even more deeply now that we know Spencer, Abby and Noah.

Every so often, God pulls back the curtain to let Frank know he IS doing a good job.........

This week is Vacation Bible School for us.  Of course, Frank and I are there each night to cheer on the team and pray for the children to be reached.

Spencer is right in the middle of all the excitement.  At two and a half he's too little to fully participate, so he stands by Mommy.  But he's watching, listening and drinking in as much as he can.  I even heard him trying to recite the theme scripture last night!

The first evening, Frank wasn't feeling well.  When Joy asked what was wrong, he just said tummy trouble and sat down.

But the grandson misses nothing.  He peered up at Frank and asked, "You tummy huht, Poppa?"   

"Yes, buddy.  My tummy hurts a little."  Frank smiled into the big blue eyes; touched by his concern.

Without hesitating, Spencer put his chubby hand on Poppa's tummy, bowed his head and whispered, "Jeeshush.  Jeeshush."  No sweeter Name.  No more precious petition.

Spencer simply, with child-like faith, prayed...........just as his dad, his grandads, his great-grandads, his great-great-grandads.

In calculating, we discovered that Spencer and Abby are both FIFTH generation Christian children.  (I'd actually love to record the story some day of John's orphaned grandparents who were brought to America by a Christian organization.  They were later adopted by God-fearing families.)

Decisions made over one hundred years ago by people like that now set the tone flowing down to our treasured grandchildren.  The task before Frank and myself?  Keep the faith strong and vibrant!

I can almost hear someone saying, "That's great for you and your family, Sheri.  But my family tree resembles the Jubals more than the Wesleys."

Then Be the Change!

Make a determination that whatever your heritage may have been, your legacy will look different!  It's totally possible for you to impact the lives of those not yet born!

Susanna Annesley-Wesley was the twenty-fifth child born to her father.  It was said that her parents didn't have very high expectations for her.

But at some point in the journey, Susanna came to know Christ.  And oh, what an impact for those after her.  Oh, what an impact for the world!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dangly Things

Blogging has long been the reward I give myself once everything else has been completed!

And since May 29th, nothing has been completely completed!  Everything has had some element of a "dangly" (as our assistant has labeled them)  dangly things that yet need to be.........completed!

That has been the problem with Embrace the Grace.  But this morning I realized that this blog is about more than just me being excited to write something that will hopefully encourage or maybe even inspire someone.

This blog is also about giving friends, family, acquaintances and even a few strangers an opportunity to be distracted, for just a moment, from their own list of "dangly things."  So in an effort to at least distract - I'm posting today.

Travel and company have been a huge part of the past thirty days for Household Hawley.

  •  Frank and I went to Orlando for a three day conference.  
  • My dad came down to preach for our church on Pentecost Sunday.  
  • We traveled to north FL for Dad's family reunion.  
  • The very next weekend, I flew to NC for my nephew's graduation.  
  • He flew back with me to spend a week.  
  • Last Monday, Frank's brother and his sweet family arrived from NC for a few days.  
  • And in just a couple of hours, Joy and I will leave for a speaking engagement in Jacksonville.  

(Now you see why there have been an unending number of "danglies" following me around!)

Instead of the hour I normally use to craft a blog post, I allowed myself fifteen minutes to write a short HELLO this morning.  And don't you know that because I've waited so long to write, my blog server demanded a new pass word setting.  (Also, I couldn't remember what we'd last changed it to!  Huge Sigh!)

Seven of my precious minutes went to technical difficulties.  But I was determined to say something to you today!

Next week begins VBS at our church and we can hardly wait to love on the scores of neighborhood children who pour through our doors.  Many more danglies will accompany them.

But I've determined that this summer I want to retrain my brain.  I'm moving blog writing from a task of  reward to a task of responsibility.

And working on a responsibility that also renders rewards takes the difficulty out of a deterred dangly every time!

 (Try saying that three times really fast!)

Thank you for reading!  It is an honor that I value!  And my heart is to offer encouragement and inspiration more often than just distraction.

Hope your day is full of doing away with every dangly that would dare to distract or discourage!