Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Good Read

It's pretty rare for me to write a post about a particular scripture.  There's a reason for that.

(Confession time right here!) 

When I'm reading for enjoyment or encouragement, I usually skip over any (okay, almost ALL) scriptures that are written out.  It's a real act of discipline for me to stop and read through whatever passage the writer has quoted.

Nope, there is no quirky truth attached to that confession.  Not a single wonderful illustration to be gleaned.  It's just a character flaw I'm addressing.

But I've exposed the truth about myself because I want to implore you to NOT follow my example right now.

Early this morning, I came across an incredible scripture.  It was one of those "jump off the page" passages.  It gave me such encouragement I've pondered all day long how to share it with you.

It happens to be the last verse of the longest chapter in the Bible.  And since this happens to be the last day of November, I decided to just put it out there.

Please don't skip a single, solitary word!   Here goes:

"I have strayed like a lost sheep.  Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands."  
Psalm 119:176 New International Version

What hope I found in this scripture!

You see, the past few weeks have been rather difficult for me in many ways.  All the spiritual disciplines that normally restore my joy weren't working.  Heaven seemed very quiet when I prayed. My Father seemed far away.

Now as a minister, I would normally have read Psalm 119:176 and thought of those who haven't met Christ yet.  I would have characterized them, in my thinking, as the lost sheep.  I would have paused to pray for them.

But the next phrase, seek your servant, caused me to halt in my reading.  And in that moment I saw.........myself.

Suddenly I was overwhelmed with gratitude to know that when a weary heart calls out to the Creator of this vast universe, "Father, find me."  He comes searching.

(Anytime I've felt that God was quiet or distant, it was usually because He wanted me to come closer to Him.  Closer in my thinking.  Closer in my attitude.  Closer in my actions.)

Right now Spencer loves playing Hide 'n Seek.  His favorite spot to hide is in the tiny closet holding my washer and dryer.  He squeezes in.   Manipulates the folding door to close.  Then calls out in his little sing song voice, "Noni, I hiding.  Find me."

I know right where he is all along.

But with great fanfare I call out,  "Where is Spencer?  Has anyone seen him?"  Then I run to the closet door throw it open wide and sweep his precious frame into my hungry arms.  I kiss his angelic face as he squeals with delight. 

Perhaps you need to hear that the Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are!

If you will simply whisper "Father, find me!" with a genuine heart, He will sweep you into His waiting arms.  And you, my friend, will know true delight.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Choosing Thanksgiving

Blessings for your day!

For many readers of Embrace the Grace, this is a normal Thursday just like any other.  But for us in the U.S., it's a day of celebration and gratitude.  (The original significance of this holiday has morphed, certainly.  But aren't special days what we make them?  An international truth!)

And I suppose that's the line of thinking running through my little brunette head this morning.  After coming to the kitchen at 5:00 to make sure the turkeys were thawed, I had ample time to sit and reflect.

(Yes, I did say turkeys plural.  John wanted to try his hand at frying a big bird this year.  Some want a traditional roasted turkey.  Hence, TWO gobblers for our table.)

Before the sun rose, I wrote in my journal:  "Thank you, Father for instituting holidays!  Only You could understand the NEED of human beings for celebration.  Our need to 'look forward' to something.  Our need to reflect and appreciate.  Our need to stand still; change the rhythm; express gratitude; embrace loved ones.  Thank You for teaching us through the original festivals that holidays serve an important role in living."

Recently, I found this statement by John Schindler.  (The rescuer of  hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.)  "Life can be one satisfaction after another if we let it."  Powerful, right?!

For someone reading this, you're anxious about your holiday celebration.  (Or maybe you're reading this after everyone has left and you're sorting through emotions.)  What if the meal doesn't turn out right?  What if Aunt Sally arrives in a foul mood?  What if I haven't planned adequately?  What if some of my guests just don't show up?  What if someone gets angry?  What if......  What if.....  What if.........

May I just say from one worrier to another?  LET life be satisfying!

Glitches happen.  Recipes flop.  Dishes break.  Babies cry.  Siblings argue.

Choose to laugh!  Embrace the joy!  Set the tone!  Allow satisfaction to rule!

"Easy for you to say, Sheri!  Most of your family will gather at your table today.  And it sounds like everyone gets along just fine."

True.  But never judge someone strictly by what you see on the surface.

Several imperfections threaten my sunny skies today, too.  The thing pressing my heart most is an anniversary of loss.  Thanksgiving five years ago was the last opportunity I had to hug my precious mom.  She moved to heaven five days later.    

But shortly my house will fill with loved ones and friends.  I'll hear little voices yelling, "NONI!  Let's play!"  There will be hugs and laughter and fragrances and food!

I'm going to choose thanksgiving!  I'm the only one who can determine my attitude; outlook; emotions.  And for today - I'm choosing thanksgiving!

(Case in point - I completed this post at 8 AM -  just in time for my battery to die.  Then I discovered that I'd left the charger at my office!  Nathan picked it up but posting had to wait until our meal was over.  Perfect illustration!  Smiling!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Should I?

Several phrases have guided my decision making through the years.  One of them is:

"Just  because I CAN doesn't mean I SHOULD!"

Just because I can jump off this roof doesn't mean I should!

Just because I can give you all the information doesn't mean I should!

Just because I can squeeze into spandex leggings does not mean I should!

Well, you get the idea.

I'm aware that lately my writing has been sparse - it truly feels like I just now decided to go to El Salvador.  But we've gone; worked hard; been back for almost a month and life has rolled on.  Very Quickly!

Noah hits six weeks today!

At any rate,  it felt very important to share this one thought with someone today.  "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Freedom is one side of a coin.  Responsibility backs it.  The two together create balance.

I've wanted to write a post for some time now about a phrase I've come to dislike.

I usually hear it coming from women who've bid farewell to their twenties and find themselves frustrated about something.  It sounds like this:

"Well, I've come to the age now that I just don't care what anyone thinks!  I just say it; whether they like it or not!"

Again, may I say?  "Just because I can doesn't mean I should!"

With age should come some additional - Wisdom.  Grace.  Patience.  Discernment.  Understanding.   Compassion.

I'd much rather hear someone say:  "Well, I've come to the age that I realize we all have a story!  Life has felt like a steam roller for many.  When I think of something that may encourage someone, I just say it; whether they asked for it or not."  

Another writer I enjoy reading said, "I consider others more important than myself; for the purpose of encouraging them."

That's my thought, anyway.

And fear not!  The only spandex I own is of the foundational variety.  It serves to squish, squeeze and hopefully smooth.  But it will NEVER see the light of day outside my dressing area!

Whoa!  Mercy goodness, NO!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


So this post has one objective only - to talk about Grandchildren!

There's your warning.  But I can also promise that before you finish reading, you'll most likely smile.  And maybe even involuntarily emit a little, "AAWWWW!"

Let's go in order from youngest to oldest.

So first off, news of the young prince, NOAH SMITH!  Noah is growing and glowing. (Although Meagan wishes he would do a little more night time sleeping too.)  Fortunately, she has a couple more weeks of maternity leave.

It seems so odd to be talking about my baby's baby. Who, by the way, is one month old today!

Noah looks mostly like his dad, Nathan.  (Thank heavens Nathan is a handsome guy!)  But he does have Meagan's perfect, pouty lips.  And when those eyes lock on you......well, you're just sunk!  He has that same effect on the other ladies of our church.  So that's not just "Noni Talk"!

Last week I was holding Noah and quietly started singing a little song I sang for him while he was riding around in Mommy's tummy.  He turned that perfect blond head toward my face and did his "eye-lock thing."  It was hard to keep singing around the lump in my throat!

It's wonderful watching Nathan and Meagan as they bond with Noah; making their own precious family!  Deep Contented Sigh!

Next in the line up is the beautiful, ABBY GRACE!  While Poppa and I were in El Salvador, Abby got glasses.  And she wears them with panache!

We're thankful to an optometrist's assistant in our church (Beth) who helped get Abby an appointment with a pediatric specialist.  It was determined that she does indeed need to wear glasses.  So in her typical style, Joy chose the most adorable pair of pink plastic frames that the indestructible section offered.

I wish we had been there to witness it.  But Joy said that when she slipped the completed glasses on, Abby began to look around in amazement!  It was apparent that she was seeing many things for the very first time.

And once we got home, I nearly cried with delight watching her study my face for the first time while wearing the glasses.  It was a connection moment I won't forget.

Some of you may wonder how Joy and John manage to keep glasses on a sixteen month old.  They don't have to, she loves having them on!  The only exception is while they're riding in a car.  She pulls them off and holds them until they get to where ever they're headed.

Her light brown hair has gotten very curly and long enough for Joy to create all manner of adorable dos!  One look at Abby Grace and you gotta smile!  Just can't help yourself!

Finally, the original young prince - SPENCER MATTHEW!  He has just become the little man of the group and he knows his place as "first born!"  He gives instruction to anyone trying to touch Noah without permission.  He makes sure everyone greets Abby too.  He even did a little backseat driving with his Noni last night.

Our big fall festival wrapped up around 8:30.  So I took the Schreck babies home for baths/bedtime while everyone else was cleaning up.  (Obviously, an assignment I didn't mind.)  But it was the first time Noni had driven Mom's car with both Spencer and Abby on board.  The First Born was a bit concerned.

I heard his little voice as he looked out the window, "We're yost!  Oh, no.  Not again.  We're yost!"  (Which being interpreted means he thought we were LOST.)

I tried to comfort my two and a half year old navigator.  But he was certain that Noni didn't know the way to their house.  Even when I arrived safely in the driveway, he continued to give instruction about how to park and where Mommy puts things and how they get baths...........

Last Friday Joy brought them by to see us for a few minutes.  Poppa wasn't feeling his best but Spencer is convinced that a little time with the "frih-bee"  (Frisbee) makes everything better.  So Poppa was trying to muster enough strength to stand in the yard for a while.

Spencer walked around holding the plastic lid of a coffee container; which serves as his frih-bee at our house.  "Ready?"  "Let's play some frih-bee."

Finally I said, "Come on, Spence.  Let's play."

He studied me with all the understanding of a two and a half year old.  "But Noni, you don't feel good."

"I feel well enough to play with you,"  I managed to smile while struggling to get up from the couch.

Spencer tapped his short leg with the makeshift Frisbee.  "You're a good sport, Noni."

That pesky lump showed up in my throat again almost immediately.

And that's the view from the Noni chair.  Thankful I am!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Follow the Leader

(Frank and I were back in the office last Wednesday morning.  By Friday, both of us were sick.  Our bodies said, "You didn't hear that I'm tired?!  NOW you'll rest!"  Consequently, we've been limping along; trying to get well since then.  That's why I'm just now writing.  Thanks for youR patience!)

"Too many leaders!  Not enough workers!"

That was Buffy's mental summation of our missions team after spending only a few hours with us.

Buffy is a Nazarene pastor's wife from Ohio.  Her mom, Terri, wanted to go to El Salvador with us and asked that Buffy come along too.  It seemed like a great opportunity to spend time with her mom as well as spread God's love.  Buffy made the arrangements and arrived with high expectations.

But she quickly became anxious about the dynamic of our team once we were all gathered in Orlando. 

"I've never seen so many people on one team that were 'in charge' kind of people," she said.  "I knew we were in trouble.  This was NOT going to be a pleasant trip!"

When traveling overseas there's an interesting element called "flexibility" that is essential to the success of any trip.  But this is especially true in third world countries where the only certainty is that there are no certainties.

Even one person on a team who suffers from "inflexibility" or "do it my way-itis" can put the entire mission at risk.  Buffy's past experiences caused her to smell imminent disaster brewing with this GGC team.

And it's true that every individual on that 21 member team leads something.

Pastors, business owners, department managers, lead sales people, office administrators, student leaders, teachers,...........    Everything except a president.

That's a lot of people accustomed to giving direction.

Cram them all together in unfamiliar territory.  Deprive them of sleep, hot showers and comfort foods. Change plans - frequently.  Look uncertain for a moment.

Perhaps now you begin to smell the same potential for disaster as Buffy!

But the Holy Spirit served as the 22nd member of our team.  And that power helped us all keep moving in the same direction.

At the end of the trip, Buffy said she had never been so glad to be so wrong.

It really boiled down to three important keys:
  • Our trip leaders (the Buccafurnis) are incredible planners who expect the unexpected.
  • Our pastor modeled that the best leaders are also excellent followers.
  • Our entire team chose each day to remember that we were there for the El Salvadoran children - not for ourselves.
(As Anna said during last year's trip, "Just remember this, 'It's not about ME!'  Then get over it!!"  We were still quoting her during this trip.)
The Lord showed me a beautiful passage in Isaiah that perfectly illustrated our team.  "I'll bring all these trees together.  I'll plant them in an area that is not their natural habitat.  I'll cause them to flourish so that everyone may marvel at God's greatness."

I guess that's what happens when we all choose to follow THE LEADER!