Monday, January 27, 2014

The Man NOT of My Dreams

When I first met Frank Hawley, we were both sophomores on the campus of what is now, Southeastern University.

I walked into the chapel to rehearse for the upcoming Christmas musical which would combine multiple singing groups.  Frank sat on the front row.  He had both arms stretched out and draped casually over the back of his bench.

On his left sat a giggling little brunette.  And on his right sat an adoring blonde.  The silly girls hung on his every word.  Laughing a bit too loudly at each slightly funny thing the handsome ministry student said. 

I was appalled!

Turning to my friend, I spat out these words - "What a flirt!  That's exactly the kind of guy I would NEVER date!"

Ummm.........anyone ever hear the phrase, "Never say never!"????

Fast forward one year.

Friends had urged Frank to ask me out.  The same friends had urged me to say yes.

We started dating in October.  And just twelve months after my sarcastic statement, I was the giggling brunette sitting beside the handsome ministry student.  (One major change - the blonde was GONE!)

Dating in a college environment gives you  the chance to observe potential spouses in many different situations.  How do they handle pressure?  Are they hard workers?  What are their financial habits?  Are they consistent; honest?  What's their spiritual life like? Are they good with people?  Respectful of elders?  Respected by peers?

Answers to all these questions helped to define the Man of My Dreams.

On one of our dates, Frank and I were confined to the middle of a long, slow, sweltering line of people.  In front of us, an exasperated mom struggled with an exhausted baby boy of about 18 months.  The little guy screamed miserably.

(Remember this was 35 years ago.)  Frank tapped the mom on the shoulder and asked, "Could I hold him for you?"

The mom never even hesitated.  "YES!"

Frank took the little one and started bouncing and singing softly; oblivious to everyone else around.  Within less than ten minutes he returned the baby - now sleeping peacefully - to the grateful mom.

"Note To Self!!  One more example of the kind of guy a girl dreams of!"

Fast forward twelve more months and we're standing at an altar in Pensacola, FL.  My heart knew that he truly was the man of my dreams!  What a glorious day of celebration; launching our life together as husband and wife!

But eventually, everyone wakes up from dreams, right?  Life happens!  Sometimes in very large doses!

Bills.  Disappointment.  Lost jobs.  Premature babies.  Sickness.  Set backs.  Failure.  Deaths.

Fast forward thirty-four years -  today is another birthday in the life of Frank Hawley.

I probably should say,  "Happy Birthday to the Man of My Dreams."  But I'm too honest for that. I just can't!  You may be shocked by my admission.  And I certainly don't mean to sound unappreciative or disrespectful.

But all this water under the bridge has highlighted that Frank wasn't really the man of my dreams..........


He's the Man who has Exceeded My Every Dream!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Available Help

I ran out of dishwasher detergent - and it became a real problem!

It happened last week.   I reached under the sink and grabbed the dishwasher detergent container.  (It had already spent two days resting upside down so the last little dribbles of detergent could be salvaged.)

Empty!  Completely and totally devoid of any liquid with which one could clean dishes. Serious dilemma.  The dishwasher was FULL.  I had to be at work NOW.  No one would be coming home until well after 9 PM.  What to do?

Wasteful, I know - but I ran the dishwasher without detergent.  Fully aware that the process would have to be repeated when detergent was finally obtained.

I hate to admit this to you, dear reader.  But it was two more days before I was able to address the dishwasher dilemma again.

Frank and I started to pick up some detergent at the local grocery but it was so much more expensive than what I usually buy at Sam's.  I couldn't bring myself to do it. 

Finally, we had a morning at home.  Lots of tasks to complete before leaving for a funeral.  I still had a dishwasher full of unwashed dishes and not enough time to go all the way to Sam's.

So, I got ready to unload the dishwasher and laboriously wash each dish by hand!  Not looking forward to it - but it seemed no other option was left.

Something urged me to take one more look in the storage pantry in our garage.

(We lovingly refer to that pantry as The Beast!  John built it to help with storage for the short time he and Joy lived with us.  Floor to ceiling.  One entire wall of the garage.  It is indeed a beast!)

And there it was, hiding behind the extra case of green beans.  (I forgot I already had one case, okay.)  It smiled at me - one last gallon container of dishwasher detergent!

The help I'd needed all that week had been tucked away in my very own storage pantry and I didn't even know it.  And not just a dribble of help - an abundance of help.  For an entire week I had fretted and the answer was within easy reach all along.  

I just hadn't put forth enough effort in my search!

Taking care of the dirty dish dilemma in the most difficult way was no longer necessary.  I now had the help I needed!

(Some of you already know where I'm headed with this, right?!)

God promises that He will be a very present help in our time of need!  Always there; never leaving us.

All we have to do is sincerely call for Him!  (Another way of saying that might be to diligently search!)

The help I need for my  "life" dilemma is available.  And His help is abundant!  What better assistance  could we have than the One who runs the universe?!

We just have to believe the promise that He is available whenever we need  Him.  Then ask for the help. 

Don't work through your dilemma the hard way; stop fretting.  Help is within easy reach!  Lean on His wisdom.  Search out His solution.

Trust me, you'll be so very glad that you did!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Half Way

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend four hours sharpening the axe."  --Abraham Lincoln

Every January, we set aside a few days to really focus on our walk with God and evaluate where we are in the life journey.  We ask ourselves tough questions like:

  • How are the really important relationships in our lives?
  • Where do we see ourselves twelve months from now?
  • What needs "cleaning out" in my life?
  • Are we growing in faith? love toward others? obedience to God?       
We spend a lot of time in quiet and reflection.  The only way to carve out time like that is by choosing to do without something; fast something.

Most people only relate fasting to food.  But we've also had times of fasting television, facebook, favorite hobbies.  One year Joy (who was ten at the time) chose to fast riding her bicycle. That was a tough call for Joy and for mom.  

We were home-schooling then.  When Joy would get overwhelmed or wound up, I'd just sent her out to ride several laps around the house.  It always worked like a charm.  She'd come back in ready to go.

When she announced she would be fasting bike riding for twenty-one days, I was the one who cringed!
It's all about creating extra time to refocus; sharpening the axe, if you will. 

On Monday, Kristin and I tackled my closet. It needed cleaning out.  She had a free afternoon.  Cleaning and organizing are calming for her.  I wanted the help.  So we dove in......

The prevailing rule for discarding?  If I haven't worn it in a year - time to bless someone else!

But several things became evident rather quickly -  I had seriously underestimated how long that little project would take.   I had seriously underestimated how much junk I had stashed away.  I had seriously underestimated Kristin's level of determination to push through to completion.  (Thank heavens for that last one.)

Half way into the project, I left the room overwhelmed! It looked a little like a bomb had gone off.

There were clothes and shoes and hangers strewn hither and yon.  Stacks for consignment.  Stacks for friends and family.  Stacks for the garbage.

I had to go lay down in the other bedroom for a half hour nap before I could continue!  (Yes, I'm telling you the truth.)

But before the afternoon was over, victory was ours!  Shirts hung neatly; organized by color.  All dress slacks hanging symmetrically; also by color.  Sweaters, tank tops, casual jeans - folded and stowed.  Top, bottom, sides and corners all in order!

That one afternoon devoted to organizing and cleaning is going to save me so much time getting ready this year.  (Just like Lincoln suggested.)

My little closet is so neat and tidy now that I could fling open the door and invite you to view inside without any shame or embarrassment at all.

And that's why we choose to fast and pray at the beginning of each year.  We want to clean out our lives.  Discard things that don't serve a good purpose.  Give the important things a more prominent place.

That way, I'm able to fling open the door of my life and invite you in.  You're now welcome to view my heart up close/journey with me.   And if proper time has been spent cleaning the corners,  I don't have to be embarrassed or ashamed or feel there's anything at all to hide.

I'm at the half way point of fasting for 2014.  Feel free to join me for the second half if you'd like.

Update:  My frozen shoulder is thawing slightly.  And all the virus bugs have flown.  I think we're on the path back to real living.  Thanks so much for the prayers and comments of encouragement!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I am so sick of being SICK!

The dictionary describes me as, "Suffering from or affected with an illness; afflicted..."

Well, the Vitamin C Queen is just about done with all this afflicted-ness!

Embrace the Grace readers are undoubtedly some of the most patient/faithful readers there are.   I'm well aware that I haven't written since Christmas Day.  So much has taken place since then in your life as well as in mine.

I haven't written because I've been struggling along with three different illness issues and kept waiting to be "out of the woods" before writing.

Obviously THAT plan hasn't worked so well!

"What in the world is going on?" 

I'm so glad you asked!

First, there's the little matter of a left shoulder that has frozen up.  It arbitrarily decided that it would no longer lift my arm beyond a ninety degree angle. 

Then when I went to a physical therapist (in early December) and started trying to force it to work - it decided to start aching.  Kinda like a toothache, only bigger. 

It's also a lonely, uncooperative shoulder.  So it routinely wakes me up at night; just for the company.

I started getting on top of the shoulder issue with the help of ice/heat packs, ibuprofen, gentle exercises and stubborn determination. 

Frank will always remember our thirty-fourth anniversary fondly.  I wore the lovely fragrance called "Ben-Gay" for our dinner date!  Oh, how times change!

In spite of the horrible weather most of you have been experiencing, the Schreck family made it back to FL in time for our Christmas day together - January 4th. Unfortunately, the bug they were exposed to in New York managed to catch the same flight.

Our Christmas celebration ended with first John then Abby throwing up and Spencer sharing some horrible stomach difficulty.  

Meagan and Nathan frantically snatched up Noah, their gifts, the diaper bag and FLED!  Unfortunately, they didn't get out before some of the bug hitched a ride with them. 

We all made it through Sunday, then started falling like flies.  First Noni (who took a short nap snuggled next to Spencer the day of the infecting.)  Then Uncle Nathan.  Yesterday it was Meagan. 

And when the stomach bug finished it's all out attack on me, a sinus bug that had waited patiently in the wings sprang into action. 

I've now spent two days walking around with a tissue box in my hand, staying on a bland diet, sucking on cough drops, keeping an ice pack lashed to my shoulder and stinking like analgesic rub!

Yep, I'm about ready to be healthy again!

Sorry to whine.  But I would like to ask that you please say a prayer for our beleaguered little tribe.  The well ones are about worn out caring for the rest of us.

Hopefully, I'll be back on track soon with some inspiration and humor to share. 

Happy New Year!