Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday of Surprises

Sundays are always FULL days for us!  But yesterday was a little bit extra special for a couple of reasons.

Our church hosted a great friends and family day.  We called it Connections Celebration and enjoyed an absolutely perfect sabbath together.  Lots of guests looking for a church to call home.  Lots of fun for the kiddos with a huge bounce house.  Lots of excellent hamburgers and hotdogs with all the sides.  Lots of sunshine and cool breezes.

People lingered almost two hours after the service.  Talking, laughing.......connecting!  It made all the planning, meeting, phone calls, prayers, and extra effort well worth the investment.

One couple that came as guests were from England.  They don't attend church, typically.  Their time in the United States is almost over.  But they heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and were greeted warmly by many people who were interested in their story.

Even if they never come back to GGC again, we know they will return to England having had a great experience with a healthy group of Christ followers.

We had several guests who came just for the meal after service.  That was fine too.  So many are searching for the Truth - it's our job to provide multiple entryways for discovering that Truth!

After everything was cleaned up; put away; vacuumed; properly dispersed, we headed home for a rest.  A text altered our evening plans beautifully.

"Mom, would you and Dad be interested in watching the kids so John and I could go on a date?"

This request rarely comes our way, believe it or not.  We answer YES as often as possible!

(Cue the music for the Lone Ranger aka 1812 Overture!)

We had already planned to meet friends for a quick bite to eat.  But they're the kind of friends who also think grandchildren are perfect.

"Of course!"  I responded quickly.  "Put them in their car seats and we'll bring our car to you."

On the way to get Abby and Spencer, Meagan called.  "What are you and Mom doing tonight?"

"We're headed to Zaxby's to get some chicken.  Do you and Nathan want to join us?"


We called our friends - for the third time - to say that our plans were changing yet again.

"No problem," they answered.   We'll get a bigger table!"

Now, this all sounds idyllic.  But when you're not used to being the one solely responsible for toddlers, that responsibility can get overwhelming pretty quickly!  Our first few minutes went a little something like this.

"Poppa, you get Spencer out of his car seat and go on in to let them know we're here."

"How do you unhook this thing?!"

"I'm not sure.  I'm having enough trouble with Abby's!"

"I'na eat, Noni!"

"Yes, baby.  As soon as I figure out the car seat, we'll get something to eat."

"Spencer!  Hold Poppa's hand in the parking lot."

"I'na eat, Noni!"

"I know, Abby.  I'm trying."

"Where's your shoe?  Did it fall off here in the backseat?"

"I'na eat, Noni!"  (Starting to make little crying noises.)

"I know sweetheart! Noni's trying her hardest!!"

And that was just trying to get out of the car!

Needless to say, it felt like the cavalry had arrived when Aunt Meme and Uncle Nathan arrived.  We ended up handing Noah off to the friends. (He was quite content.) Meagan took charge of Spencer while Nathan and I tag-teamed with Abby.  Whew!

I can confidently report that we managed to get all hungry children fed.  We did not lose any of them.  (Well, as long as you don't count the few minutes Spencer spent hiding under the table.) We recovered one sparkly pink shoe that went missing. Kissed multiple booboos.  We deciphered nearly all the unintelligible words that made perfect sense to the toddlers.  And successfully managed to get them buckled back into the car seats for the ride home!

A few of my favorite lines from the evening:

"WOOK, Poppa!  WOOK!'  (Look in this direction; quickly!)

"I'na salwed!"  (I want to eat some of your salad, Noni.)

Blech! (Sound a toddler makes as they spit the tomato they don't like back into your salad.)

"Sit wif' me."  (I'm unaware that it takes great effort for you to get down on the floor, Poppa.  I'm just inviting you in to my world.)

"I'na weed."  (I want to sit snuggled on your lap while you read this book.)

One milli-second later you'll hear.......
"All dond!"  (Finished!  I didn't want to read the entire book!)

"I yove lou, Noni!"  (Meaning: Noni will now surrender to you all her worldly goods!)

Ah, the wonders and joys that accompany a Sunday of Surprise!

(I'd love to hear about you favorite "toddler phrases" from children and grand children!)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Front Row

Great seats are a premium for plays, concerts and sports events.  People often pay dearly for tickets that provide front row seating.

But my life work provides me with front row seating more often than I can tell about.  Take for instance the past five days.

On Thursday, I left to participate in a discipleship conference for women.  I've spoken at this before and I knew I was in for an intense few days.  Tres Dias (the name of the conference) has all the elements necessary for a great women's event.
  • Lots of excited ladies
  • Incredible camaraderie 
  • Challenging/inspiring teaching
  • Great food
  • Activities
  • Surprises
  • Chocolate!  Lots of chocolate!
  • Equal amounts of laughter and tears
I so enjoy being part of the teaching team for this event.  Although, it could be a bit awkward as I'm usually the only woman on the three-person team.  (Spiritual Directors for Tres Dias must be ordained ministers.)

But I've gotten to know the others and they've truly become like brothers. Lots of teasing, agitating and cheering.  They also make great prayer partners as we pray together that our messages will touch the women attending the conference.

What a privilege to sit front and center; watching as the ladies absorb truth from God's word.  To watch as the light dawns about just how much God loves and treasures them.  To see them accept the call to follow Him with their whole heart.  To stand by as they connect with the Father in prayer for their families, their friends, their dreams!  To watch as HOPE begins to reopen closed hearts!

Beats the daylights out of watching a play or a ball game!

Frank arrived for the closing service Sunday evening and gave me a hug that let me know how much he'd missed me.  We stopped for a snack at Wendy's and then started home.

That's when we got the call saying front row seats were waiting for us at another event.

A young couple we know was approached two weeks ago about the possibility of adopting a baby which the mother couldn't keep.  They eagerly agreed and began preparations for the baby's April due date.

This was a dream come true for the young couple.  Eight years ago, they were able to adopt a baby boy from Guatemala.  And while they love him dearly, financial restraints prevented them from pursuing a second adoption.  This baby would be a totally different situation.

As Frank and I drove slowly toward home, "Grandma" called.  "We've just gotten word that the birth mother has already gone into labor and the baby will be born at any minute!  Are you and Pastor Sheri able to meet us at the hospital?"

Without a moment's hesitation, Frank turned toward the hospital and we picked up speed.

By the time we arrived, the baby had been born.  Frank was able to join the family upstairs as they were meeting the newest member.  I drove our car back to their home to pick up an aunt and the new BIG brother.  It became my task to snap pictures - hoping they would be in focus.

Soon mom and dad came downstairs to get brother.  As they shared the details of their new daughter's birth, dad suddenly became overwhelmed.  He turned toward Frank who wrapped his arms around the young man and just stood with him while he sobbed.  

Eventually, permission was granted and we all headed upstairs.  The excitement was contagious!  The joy unmeasurable!  We beamed until our faces ached!

As the nurse wheeled a bassinet into the dimly lit room where we waited, conversation dropped to a whisper.  The adoptive mom picked up her new daughter who was less than three hours old.  We circled around as she placed the swaddled bundle in the waiting arms of big brother.

He reached out a cautious hand to smooth the blanket.  At that moment, the newborn opened her eyes and looked right at brother.  "Hi, Baby."  He said tenderly.

Tears surfaced for us all!  What an honor to share such an intimate moment with that little family!

I suppose that if we'd chosen a different profession, we'd be privileged to have front row seats routinely for theater and ball games and symphony.  And while I'm sure we would enjoy those, I wouldn't want to trade for the seats we've occupied this week.

Front Row for Ministry is truly a joy!


Monday, March 17, 2014


"No Way!"

"Are you serious?!"

"No, you're kidding.  Right?!"

These are simply a few of the responses we keep hearing as friends express incredulous disbelief!  Our simple room renovation (which began in October of 2013) continues to be a mammoth endeavor!

"But Sheri," you may say.  "We saw a picture on Facebook of your family having dinner in the room.  We thought it was finished."

And to this I respond - YES!  That's the quick answer.  Yes, we've eaten in our new dining room.

The table is there.  The chairs are all in place.  The windows and doors work perfectly.  The tile is solid.  The paint color inviting.  The lighting dims and brightens right on cue.

"So what's the problem?"

The building inspector (who should have been on our property twice) has now visited us EIGHT times!  And trust me, these are not social visits!  Only ONCE has he given a passing sign-off.

"No Way!"

"Are you serious?!"

"No, you're kidding.  Right?!"

I told you.  And please understand, this man is inspecting the work of lifetime professionals.  Men who've done this kind of work much longer than this fella has been inspecting work.

And yet, all the power for passing us lies in HIS ink pen.

The final inspection was scheduled for sometime between 10 AM and 2 PM Friday.  Because Frank was determined to be present when "Mr. Inspector General" arrived, he had to rearrange his entire day.  Appointments cancelled or rescheduled.  Honey-Do list seriously modified!  All activity revolved around being at home and standing on the ready. 

We were on the ready by 9:50 AM.  We were still on the ready when the all important county official finally rolled in at 1:50 PM!

He marched around examining every aspect of the inside and outside of our additional 100 square feet of living space.  (I promise he has acted as though he's inspecting the Taj Mahal!)

I dashed to the garage to get Frank then disappeared to another part of the house.

Within just a few moments I could hear the agitated voice of my usually calm husband.  "Well, could you PLEASE just give me a punch list?!  A Complete Punch List, this time?!  We'll make Certain that it's completed!"

The staccato edge on his voice made me know he wasn't just thinking about the need for a punch LIST.  (Yes, I know we're pastors.  But pastors are human too!)

I ventured cautiously out of the bedroom only to discover my husband was hot under the collar; the inspector was gone; we were yet again failed!  (See opening of post for my comments at that moment.)

So, here we go again.

Yes, he's probably being extra picky for some reason.  Yes, we could complain to his superior.  Yes, it's frustrating and annoying and maddening and..............

But the bottom line is this -  his inspection is ultimately for our good.  Once he does sign off, every possible problem will be addressed and corrected.  We'll have a completely safe dining room.  And if any problems should arise in the future, his signature will assure our insurance company that we met ALL requirements.

That provides peace of mind!

Sounds a little like a Biblical principle, doesn't it?  If we open our hearts to the inspection of the Holy Spirit, He will tell us of all the little things needing correction that no one else sees.  He's also very thorough.

But unlike our Polk County inspector, the Holy Spirit promises to stay around and help us make the corrections we need in building a safe spiritual life.  Each inspection is ultimately for our good!

And I for one am incredibly thankful for the peace of mind provided by Inspector Holy Spirit!  How about you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Difficulty Diligence Delight

(This is a "flying fingers" post.  Written hurriedly because time was short and the message felt important.  So here you go.....)

What could I possibly mean with this odd title today?

Well, while walking this morning I talked to the Lord about what the next post should be.  Suddenly it was crystal clear.  Use these three words and write to encourage!

Each of us encounter difficulty that has varying degrees of impact.  Everything from simple inconvenience to the difficulties that threaten to knock us off our feet.

Difficulty is part of life.  And if we don't understand that, we can easily become disheartened every single time we encounter trouble.  I'm often surprised by the people who look up to Heaven and ask, "Why ME?!  Why has this happened to ME?!"

After having dealt with so many different forms and degrees of difficulty, I tend to think that "Why Me?" is an unproductive perspective.

May I suggest that perhaps the better prayer would be, "God, help me stay courageous in the middle of this difficulty.  Make me a person who works on with diligence in spite of the trouble I'm feeling right now."

You see, I know from personal experience that if we remain diligent with our part while facing difficulty, eventually we'll cross over into a better season and DELIGHT always follows the ones who've chosen diligence in difficulty.  (Oh, such a run-on sentence.  Please forgive me, Mr. Calbert.)

Here are a few truths that help me work on with an attitude of diligence when I'm experiencing difficulty:
  • God knows right where I am!
  • He never wastes anything!
  • His plans for my life are GOOD!
  • He sees the beginning and the ending!
And as I began to write, this thought came to mind:
Sometimes Difficulty serves as the ferry which moves me to the new Destination I've been longing to reach!   

(Oh, my goodness, that's preaching material right there!)

Experiencing Difficulty?  Stay Diligent in your work today, my friend.  Remind yourself that Delight will surely come.  And you may even find yourself arriving at a new Destination.

Hope is a powerful thing!  Especially when we hope in God!