Saturday, September 28, 2013


(For regular readers, this post has nothing to do with Meagan's upcoming delivery!  She and Nathan have one baby coming - Noah.) 

Renovation - the word for the day!

After several years of dreaming.  After multiple pictures pulled from magazines.  After measuring and re-measuring.  After having the job quoted three times.  (Thanks, Raymond!)  After talking it nearly to DEATH...................we've entered in to a renovation project.

Scary territory to say the least!

I've talked about closing in the back patio for years.  First, I wanted a sun room.  Like the one I sat on in Indiana.  (The speaker's cabin had a lovely sun room complete with a wicker swing in the corner.  The view?  Why the lake, of course!)

Then, I pondered making it a screened room to simply avoid the bugs.  Fay helped talk me out of that.  "Just put in windows from the beginning" she said.  "You'll be glad you did."

Finally it hit me one night at family dinner.  We needed to turn the patio into a DINING ROOM!!!

I nurtured that dream for many months until it faded to only a whisper in my heart.  "Probably never going to actually happen," I told myself.  "But it was a great thought."

That's when I stumbled on my special kiss from heaven.

While waiting for a sales person to help us with a purchase for the church, I wandered over to the discount area.  Tucked back away from view I found The Twins.  Two BEAUTIFUL, top of the line, double insulated, windows.  The original cost was $300.00 for each.  Because the order hadn't been picked up they were marked down to $60.48!

"You WILL have your room, Sheri."  It was like the Lord stood there whispering to me.  "These windows are just the beginning!"

The twins sat in our garage for almost a year. A little sign of promise.  A little encouragement to keep dreaming.

Then my dad came for a visit and caught sight of my dream, "Close in the patio.  I'll help."  (Actually, I think he got squished while trying to enjoy family dinner with us all crowded around the table.  Sometimes a visual is a great thing!)

My dream had included the hope of a small bay window over-looking our koi pond.  But when Raymond came to look at the situation, he suggested a much bigger bay window for one entire side of the patio.  That way I'll have a window seat ready for sunrise watching and grandbaby seating.

Finally, my dining room table that seats eight could stay open all the time.  (That table is itself an answered prayer.  All the years we lived in an RV, Frank sat on a folding stool at the head of our little table.  I started then praying for a table that would seat our entire family and the three sons who would eventually join us.)

Then Ed came.  We started drawing up specific plans.  We talked about ALL the elements needed to make this happen.  (Many more than just the twins!)

Frank and I spent an entire day searching out good prices on flooring and another door.  I'm gonna tell you right now - America has entirely too many choices available for the decorating challenged among us!  That would be me.

I've gleaned advice from long-time renovators and decorators like Lynn and Paul, Judy and Bill, Wendy.  Truth is, I've pretty much talked to everyone who visited; excluding the mailman.

Just now as I sat enjoying the low humidity and birds singing and colors swimming across the sky, I suddenly got afraid.

"When you close this in, you won't feel the breeze like you do now.  When that wall goes up, you won't see your gardenia bush or the neighbor's crepe myrtle trees blooming.  You're going to have to view the sunrise through blinds on windows.  Did you think of all that?"

Isn't it interesting how boldly darkness comes to trouble our thoughts and diminish our dreams?

It's true that I will have to release those pleasures.  And I'll miss them, no doubt about it.

Putting The Twins in place will definitely change things.  And I'll be sad to lose the use of our patio. But the change will add value.  This change will add more than it will take away. 

And then I rehearsed for the 100th time how adorable all our grandbabies will be when we push that big table over to the bay window and cram their little selves together on "Noni's Special Seat."

I listened with my heart for the laughter that will surely roll through the room.  I visualized smiles and tears and stories and dreams to be shared over irrelevant meals.  I felt the warmth of hands grasping for the prayer of thanks. 

In order to embrace the dream, I must release the past.  Even the good things of the past.
Great lesson from a set of twins on a bright Saturday morning.

*All the people mentioned are dear friends from our church family!  What a gift!



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Teaching and Learning


In the blogging world, I'm sure that writing my opening statement all in caps is equivalent to yelling from a mountaintop.  But when I finish a teaching or when I complete a sermon - that's exactly what I feel like doing.

Teaching.  Communicating a thought.  Sharing lessons learned.  Bringing enlightenment or clarity.  Using words in ways that encourage; elicit tears; cause laughter; reveal.  It's simply - Resplendent!

(Can you tell that I just participated in a conference?!)

This past weekend Frank and I were privileged to teach workshops at the EXPERIENCE Conference for Peninsular Florida.

My topic title was: Dealing with Difficult People!  And judging from the attendance for both of my sessions, there are a LOT of difficult people involved in church work!

Having been part of church my entire life, I've had a bit of experience in this area.  That's why it  was such fun to help those in the classes look candidly at the elements of conflict.
Such as:
  • personality styles
  • non-verbal communication
  • timing issues
  • root causes/attitudes
  • evaluating motives
We laughed a lot!  (Mary Poppins was a great philosopher, "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!")  Some swiped at a few stray tears.  There were lots of "Amens" and "Uh Huhs."

And although it wasn't part of my original notes, I ended both classes with a miracle story about why we NEVER burn bridges in the midst of conflict.

Frank and I were so very young when we started pastoring.  And the second church we worked with voted for us to resign after just two years.  They determined we were the reason that growth had been slow.

We were devastated!  To us, their vote declared that we just weren't very good at what we thought God had called us to do.

 Following that business meeting, Frank regrouped and decided to have a final meeting with the official board.  By the time they started moving toward his office, he was "loaded for bear!"  Fully intent on "setting them straight!" 

But a trusted friend intercepted and quietly whispered,  "Don't ever burn your bridges, Pastor Frank!"  Bob looked at him steadily.  "You may need to cross back over that bridge some day."

Although young, my husband was wise and teachable.  He decided to heed the advice of his friend.  The final board meeting was succinct and civil.  

We left without a negative word.  And within a short time, God opened another door for us at Crossroads Assembly in Asheville, NC.  We formed friendships there that are dear to us still.

A few families from the first church ended up attending Crossroads.  Even one of the original board members and his family.

Fast forward nine years.

We had so enjoyed working with Pastor Mike Brown and the entire team.  But that year we accepted the call to pioneer a church on the coast of NC. 

One small problem - no funds for moving.  We needed a miracle.  

After service our last Sunday in Asheville, Frank said that the couple who had served on the board in our other church wanted to meet with us.  I immediately became nervous.  

Did they want to tell us what a poor job we'd done before?  Did they want to urge us to abandon our plans?  My stomach churned as we moved into Frank's office.

We closed the door, had prayer and the husband began speaking.  Within a few short sentences he relayed details about the other church we had never known.  

The church fell on hard financial times after we left.  In an attempt to keep it afloat, the board members went together and purchased the building.  Unfortunately, their best efforts couldn't keep things going.  The church disbanded and eventually the building was sold.  The board members made a pact to never use the profit personally.  It was left to each member's discretion what ministry would be blessed with their portion of the money. 

The story, though interesting, seemed to have no relevance.  I anxiously waited; listening for the real purpose of our meeting.

"When we heard that you would be starting a new church, Frank and Sheri, we knew you would need funds.  So we determined that the profit remaining in our account would go toward this pioneer work."  

With that quiet statement, the former board member crossed back over the bridge Frank had refused to burn so many years before.  And he handed us a check for $900.00!  More than enough to cover the moving expenses for both our family and the couple moving with us.

We all deal with difficult people from time to time.  Sometimes the encounters are painful and make no sense.  But the important lesson to learn and teach is this:  Never Burn Bridges.

God uses bridges for transporting some incredible miracles!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Watermelon

As many Mondays as possible, we try to all get together and share a family dinner.

This week provided a story that will be told for years to come, I feel certain.

Everyone had finally arrived and was moving toward the kitchen. I bustled around trying to get all the final items dished up and on the table.

I happened to tune in just in time to hear Spencer's little voice saying, "Go, Poppa."

And Joy responding, "Not yet.  Everyone isn't sitting down yet."

Chairs scrapping.  Lots of conversations flowing around one another. Tea pouring into glasses.  Serving spoons being added to dishes.

"Go, Poppa!"

"Not yet.  Let everybody get to the table, Spencer."

I came to the table last and took my place.  Spencer watched my every move with huge eyes.  My thought?  "How precious to be adored by a little one!"

As soon as my chair stopped moving he spoke a bit more loudly and added a wave of his hand, "Go, Poppa!"

He wanted Poppa to ask the blessing for the food.  But his urgency wasn't spiritually motivated. And he wasn't watching Noni because he loved her.

It seems that as I placed the different serving dishes on the table I had put a bowl of lovely, red watermelon right in front of the toddler.  Naturally, he reached out to help himself.

But Mom quickly admonished, "You have to wait until Poppa asks the blessing!"

Joy said he eyed the bowl the way a starving man would!  And repeatedly asked that Poppa go ahead with the prayer.  Relief only came when he heard, "AMEN!"

And it seems Abby shares her brother's love for "wahermewon"!  The two of them are capable of stuffing HUGE pieces of the juicy, red fruit into their tiny mouths.

We watched, mesmerized as fat little fists would close around pieces an adult man would eat with caution.

Then the stuffing would commence.  Cheeks pressed to the maximum capacity reminded us of chipmunks preparing for a long Winter. 

Once the stuffing concluded, the "chewing" (and I use that term loosely) began.  Juice flowed from perfect bow lips and dripped off chubby elbows onto Noni's freshly mopped floor.

Who cares?!  That's why they sell mops!
Our entertainment for the evening was a $6.00 watermelon (probably the last of the season.)  Broadway tickets at any cost could never have equaled the laughter, the joy, the marvelous experience of family dinner and that watermelon!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I've never been one to consider rest as a spiritual activity.

Until Now!

We just came back from a deliciously marvelous ten day vacation! We drank deeply from the peace offered us each and every day!

Some will find it incredible that we got into the car, left Florida and traveled ten hours in order to vacation at..............the BEACH!  But that's exactly what we did.  Why would you leave the vacation capital of the world?  Why leave a peninsula surrounded by some of the most magnificent beaches known to man?

Well, here it is.  Mom and Dad Hawley still live in NC.   Dad was to have a pace-maker replaced on that Wednesday.  (Certainly not life threatening; but a procedure we wanted to be there for, if possible.)

It comforted our hearts to pull into the driveway and see for ourselves that he was sitting up watching a favorite show that very evening.

We were able to laugh and talk and cheer his great recovery progress in person for a change.  And we liked that!

Frank's brother, Terry and his wife Pam graciously allowed us to crash for the night at their house.  (They've managed to find room for the wandering part of the Hawleys for many years now.)

Mom went with us to "Sherry's Bakery: the Sweetest Corner in Dunn" for breakfast on Thursday.  We sat around talking with Frank's Aunt Mary. (She and her husband started the bakery over thirty years ago.)  Then other relatives began dropping by as it often happens in small towns.

In fact, if you sit at the front table of Sherry's Bakery looking out at Wilson St., you can almost convince yourself that you're in an episode of the Andy Griffith Show.  Dunn has the same feel as Mayberry in many ways.  I've always loved that!

Then after spending more time with Dad, we headed the Tahoe toward Ocean Isle Beach!  We could almost feel the weights falling off as we drove.

Now, don't get me wrong.  We LOVE our lives here in FL!  We LOVE our church family!  We LOVE the gift of having adult children all around us!  We especially LOVE having perfect grandchildren close enough to hug and kiss at random moments in the week!

But sometimes it's important to just make time for the Original Twosome!

Frank did a great job of only checking his phone each evening while we were away.  I must admit, I checked mine a little more frequently.  Work in progress!

"What did you do?!"  "What did you go see?!"  "Where did you shop?!"  "What museum/landmark did you visit?!"  I can hear your questions - the same questions I ask friends returning from vacation.

The answer is simple: NOTHING!  We did absolutely nothing!  And as was stated earlier, it was deliciously marvelous!

Frank and I have discovered the wonder of - the Beach Umbrella!  This one colorful contraption allowed us to sit for hours at a time engaged in our favorite vacation activities: 
  • Listening to waves splash on shore.  
  • Watching people.  
  • Feeling the wind rush all around.  
  • Squishing warm sand between our toes.  
  • Hearing birds cry and babies giggle.  
  • Drinking in the soothing rays of sun.  (After significant slathering of spf50 sunscreen!) 
  • Holding hands.
  • And READING!  We both read to our hearts' content.
I finished a book I'd been working on for some time then dove headfirst into the sequel.  The second novel concluded with a bang on the next to the last day.

Deliciously Glorious!

We did see a few friends (totally necessary when you're a people person!)  We did preach for three different services on Sunday morning.  And Frank even baptized a man who had driven from KY to be baptized in the ocean.

Other than that, we slowly ate at a few favorite restaurants.  We drove by places we'd known while living in OIB.  We took in a show.  Napped.  Watched the sun rise over the ocean nearly every morning.  And then read some more.

Boring by the standards of some.  But deliciously glorious for two tired preachers who needed to reconnect with the Father and with one another.

That's why I've been a little slow about writing.  But I did think of an acrostic to describe our time away:





After much conversation on the topic, Frank and I are planning to engage in a little more of the Required Effective Spiritual Training next year!

(I'd love to read your acrostic version of the word REST!)