Monday, September 29, 2014

The Derriere Dilemma

Warning #1 - This is a total "GIRL" post.  Men won't enjoy it at all.

Warning #2 - This is strictly from the humorous file!  Not a single, spiritually-significant point to be found.  Unless you count "laughter is good medicine."

I found my mother-of-the-bride dress back in May.  A bit of a miracle really.  We were searching for possible bridesmaids' dresses when I spotted it.  Someone else had already determined it to be the perfect dress for their special event and had it on hold near the register.

It's that ambiguous taupe/gold/neutral color that I've never thought I could wear well.  But I wanted to just try it on and see.  The young sales lady agreed; so I slipped into an adjoining dressing room.

When I came out, the girls all had a fit!  (Which is southern for "became visibly excited!")  Although it would need some alterations, it truly was a stunning dress.  Turns out I can wear that color after all.

They grabbed a camera phone and snapped a couple of pictures.

Did I mention that it was marked down - 75% off the regular price?!!  More attractive still!

"Well if this lady doesn't come back, please call me."  I gave the sales lady my cell number.

"I certainly will!  You need that dress for your daughter's wedding!  I'll keep my fingers crossed."  The young lady helping us had gotten excited with us.  My sister says it's an affliction we have - drawing other people into our vortex of life.  I prefer to call it a gift!

Long story short - the other lady did NOT come back.  Adriana (the sales specialist) called right away to excitedly report that the dress was mine for the taking!

I got it home and immediately started working to lose a few pounds.  I am, after all, a pastor's wife.  Just because I can zip something, doesn't necessarily mean I should wear it!

Walking toward everyone, the dress looked perfectly modest in every way.  But when I turned sideways or walked away?  My "derriere dilemma" became immediately apparent.

Most women have an area of their body they would change if they could.  And for most of my life, the part I would gladly change (by diminishing it), followed me everywhere I went!

Mom made most of my clothes during the growing up years.  There was always a noticeable dip in the hem to compensate for the extra distance the back of my skirts had to travel.

(This became a real problem for my younger sister when she got my hand-me-downs.  She didn't have a derriere at all, it seemed.  Consequently, when she wore my clothes, it looked like Mom had made a terrible mistake with the hem which hung forlornly in the back.)

I spent a lot of time standing next to walls and sitting as a teenager.  Dress patterns and fabrics were chosen based on their ability to slenderize and camouflage body flaws.  Industrial strength pantyhose kept everything contained on Sundays.  

Fortunately, I married a man who saw my derriere dilemma as a positive, not a negative trait at all!  He could always spot me on campus he said, because my skirts did a cute little flip when I walked.   

A few years ago, while watching a fun movie with the girls, I discovered that I was simply ahead of my time.  The lovely female star was walking away from the camera and the vent on her stylish trench coat was pulled open badly because of her own derriere dilemma.

I was mortified on behalf of my newly found derriere dilemma buddy.  "Why in heaven's name didn't the costuming department check that before they sent her out to be filmed?" I asked the girls.  "Just look!  She must have been so embarrassed when she saw that they didn't fit that properly!" 

The girls looked at one another then burst into laughter.

"Mom!  That's her claim to fame," they explained.  "She's known for the junk in her trunk."

"The junk in what trunk?" I asked, bewildered.   I'd never heard the expression before.

"She has a nice bootie and she shows it off whenever she can." (My girls have always enjoyed educating Mom!)

So here I am at 57, having chosen a dress that's truly lovely; but still a little concerned about how it will look as I walk past people to take my place at the front of the church on October 24th.


As you age, things shift.  Well, they actually start to droop.  And in most cases, that's not such happy news.

Short Aside:  WHY do clothing designers highlight this?  They intentionally choose names like - Sag Harbor and New Dimensions!  There's even an entire clothing store known as Dress BARN!  "Barn" brings to my mind large, lumbering animals like cows and pigs!  REALLY?!  End of rant; return to post.

Compensating for the droop demands a return to industrial strength foundational garments.  And an entire evening wearing such garments can cause discomfort, breathlessness or even fainting.  (Thankfully, I haven't experienced that!)

 I'm getting to the GREAT NEWS.......

For those of us who've struggled through the years with too much "junk in our proverbial trunks" the age shift actually brings us to the proportions enjoyed by the other two-thirds of the female population!

Oh, Happy Day!  Thanks to the ten pounds I've sweated off and the alterations adjustments and the all-important age shift.........I won't need any breath-suppressing under-garments at all for the wedding!

My Derriere Dilemma has been dodged, yet again!

Just thought you'd enjoy smiling with me on this Monday! 




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wedding Countdown!

THIRTY DAYS!!  That's Four Short Weeks!  (If I enjoyed math even a little bit, I would give you the hours!)

That's all we have until The Wedding! 

I'm intentionally staying very calm.  Working to maintain a perpetual smile.  Nodding my head more often than shaking my head.  Not raising my voice.  (Although I realize that writing in all caps - "THIRTY DAYS!!" - was the blogger equivalent of yelling.  Sorry.)

We really are starting to enjoy the process more than stress about it.  What a blessing!

The bridesmaids dresses all arrived right on time.  The girls tried them on and they are beautiful.  Dresses and girls!

Even more exciting was the day last week when we tried on Kristin's gown!  Well, SHE tried it on. WE reacted when she swept out of the dressing room. 

Squealing, tears, deep contented sighing.......  Her shining face elicited all those responses!

I won't give away anything.  But "Simple; Elegant; Stunning" are descriptive words that come to mind.

Frank was fitted for his suit yesterday between office hours and hospital visits.  Must say that even after thirty-five years, the man still looks good when he's all gussied up!

Flowers are coming together.  Decorations are almost all gathered.  We haven't been able to locate the right shade of deep plum napkins yet.  But they're out there and we will find them.  RSVP's arrive via mail or internet almost daily.  Showers and parties begin this week-end.  Travel arrangements for friends and family are nearly complete.

It's Game On!!

Nothing symbolic or lesson-worthy in today's post.  It's just that as a reader/member of the Embrace the Grace family you're automatically inducted into the Hawley Family Vortex, too.  And as an honorary member of that group - I thought you'd like to know.......


Monday, September 22, 2014

Even a Child

"Even a child is known by his doings!"

The twenty-eight second graders quoted the Proverb clearly and in unison.

I was working as a teacher's assistant during my senior year of high school.  Part of my job (at the Christian school I attended) was to help the students rehearse their "alphabet memory verses."  When we got to the letter E, this was the scripture they would recite.

Oddly enough, I don't remember the others; but this one stuck with me.  I guess it's because the children were so wide-eyed and sincere.  As the "mature" senior, I often smiled at their intensity.  But the truth of the Proverb etched itself into my heart.

When I became a mom, I had my own children memorize Proverbs 20:11.  "People will determine who you are by the way you behave," I explained. "Your choices are important.  For even a child....  The things you do when you think no one is watching can affect your future."

The scripture re-surfaced, for me, in a big way Meagan's senior year of college.  

That's when she declared that Nathan Smith was the only fella she had ever really cared for.  (They had dated briefly in high school but found a long distance relationship too hard to maintain once she went away to college.)

Her first three years were full with classes, tour teams, and friends.  But none of the "guy friends" who asked her out ever measured up to Nathan, she often told me.

So we waited.

While praying for Meagan one day during that senior year, I was reminded of a story Nathan's mom once told me.  (Becky Smith of Smithellaneous fame.  We've been family friends with the Smiths for many years.) 

Their daughter, Sarah, was diagnosed with cancer at age six and given only a twenty per cent chance of survival.  Thankfully, the diagnosis was incorrect for her.  She just graduated from high school with honors!

Those were dark days.  And we tried to check on our friends often; phone calls, cards and even visits when we were scheduled near them.  During one visit, I asked Becky how Nathan (little more than a child himself) was handling all the struggle.

"He's doing such a great job being a big brother," she said.  And then told me this story.

"Last week, Sarah and I were able to be home for a few days.  I woke up one morning absolutely panicked.  The exhaustion had hit me and I slept through one of Sarah's night-time doses of medicine.  When I came running in to check on her, she was just fine.  Nathan had gotten up with her in the middle of the night because she was throwing up.  After he helped her get settled back in bed, he realized it was time for her medicine.  He had watched me so much that he knew exactly how to administer the precise dosage needed.  I thanked him and started to flush the IV line - a critical part of the process.  He stopped me, saying there was no need.  He had taken care of that, too!"

We both swiped at a couple of stray tears; shaking our heads that one so young would choose to behave so responsibly.  Most kids would have gone back to sleep or gone up to get mom.  Nathan knew his mom desperately needed to rest and this was one episode he could handle for her.

Fast forward almost ten years.  I'm aware that my daughter, now grown, is considering this Nathan Smith fella as life-time material.  And I find myself wondering if they will truly be a good match.

The Lord so gently brought back the story and the scripture at the same time.  "Even a child is known by his doings."  Quiet peace swept over my heart.

This past week, Nathan turned twenty-five.

Now he's the daddy with a fine son who brings sunshine everywhere he toddles!  Meagan and Nathan celebrated their third wedding anniversary this summer.  His care for his wife, his attention to her needs, his protective nature over his little family are all matters for gratitude as far as this mama is concerned.

I'm grateful to know that all our "sons" (John and Cody, too) made choices as children that set them on a good path.  And they had mamas that helped correct their not-so-good choices in order to keep them on a good path.

If you're called on today to give correction to a little one.  Don't despair.  Bravely remind them, "I'm helping you with your choices because, 'Even a child is known by his doings!' "


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Connected Corners

I truly enjoy feeling connected with different corners of the world through this blog!

There is an icon that leads me to the "Stats" page for Embrace the Grace.  I click on there two or three times a week.  It's a veritable font of information.

The number of people that have read in the last twenty-four hours.  The posts chosen most recently.  And I especially enjoy clicking the "audience" button.  Once there, it shows me the various nations that have logged on in the past week.

Indonesia.  Russia.  Poland.  France.  Even China.

One nation stays in the top numbers often and it makes my heart glad.......Ukraine!

You see, Frank and I both try diligently to stay aware of the world around us.  We're all connected, no matter what part of the globe we call home.  Once you've visited places as distant as India and China, this truth is especially real.

When we read about nations we've ministered in, that place is no longer just a spot on some map.  We remember faces and rehearse names of friends we've met there. 

Although we've not been privileged to visit Ukraine, we pray often for that region.  In fact, I just led our congregation in prayer Sunday for Ukraine, Iran, and West Africa.

Because we follow Christ, it makes us acutely aware of "family members" in all these different places.  I may not get to meet them before Heaven.  But I do believe that my prayers for them are important.

Late this afternoon, I pondered this while driving home from a hospital visit.  Hazel, a precious member of our congregation, had knee surgery yesterday.  She's in a good amount of pain.  But those blue eyes brightened when I stepped into her room.

I went to pray and comfort her.  But as usual, she immediately started sharing words of encouragement with me.

Each nurse had be told that I was her pastor.

"We're blessed with two wonderful pastors at our church," she said enthusiastically.  "Actually, four!  And oh, they have the most precious grandchildren."

She would briefly educate the newest nurse, then she would turn toward me and croon, "It's true, Baby!  We are so blessed and thankful!"  Her hand gripped mine and her infectious smile lit the room.

Hazel and Johnny have several children, scores of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.  Their family picture requires a poster!  For the few moments of that visit, I knew what her family must feel like every time they come into Hazel's presence. 

And driving home it hit me.  I am Hazel's family.  Just like I'm family with my brothers and sisters in Ukraine, Italy, Latin America, West Africa.  That's how it is for Christ followers.

Becoming part of this family is simple - faith in Christ.  Then one day, we'll all meet together in Heaven.  What a marvelous family reunion that will be!  (Don't you wish you had the contract for printing those t-shirts?!)

Until then, we stay aware of one another.  We pray when prompted.  We cheer and encourage when we can.  We believe for the best!

And we remind ourselves that in every corner of this globe, there is a person bearing our family resemblance.  A person connected to my heart!

This post is simply me sending a big old Southern "Hi Y'all!" to all my "overseas internet family" who take the time to read.  Blessings!!

Friday, September 12, 2014


It's the fast track now!

For what?  The wedding, of course.  Six short schedule-slammed sunrises & sunsets!  We'll be walking down the aisle!  (I should have just said "Fridays" but that would have ruined the alliteration.  And you know how I love alliteration!) 

I do apologize for the never-ending discussion of wedding and wedding plans.  But this is our last one.  Kristin's only one.  A monumental shift in life for Frank and me.  Thanks for your patience.

Actually, I want to share with you today about a powerful moment that took place for me this week in the middle of all the wedding excitement.

Please remember that Frank and I haven't taken any time off from our own work.  Helping Kristin and Cody plan for their big day happens after hours.

Garden Grove Church is an active, growing congregation with something "extra" happening almost every other day.  We have great teams that lead these "extras."  But we're still in the middle of it all.  Plus sermons and phone calls and meetings and emails and visits..... well, you get the picture.

A veritable whirlwind.

After a full office day yesterday, we had dinner with some folks to discuss GGC missions plans for 2015.  It made my third twelve hour day in a row.

I finally pulled into the driveway at 8:45 and stumbled a little walking up to the door.  (If  neighbors were looking, they may have wondered if I drank more than water with my meal.  Nope, trying to lose weight for the wedding!)

Although I was physically tired, my heart was light.  Why?  Because I had a great encounter with my dearest friend yesterday morning.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week each brought some sort of mini-crisis that had to be addressed.  (Oddly enough, I'm teaching a workshop at a conference next week and my assigned topic?  "Conflict  Resolution"  Can't make that up!)

By the time I threw back the covers at 5:00 AM to face Thursday, I needed some encouragement.  Desperately!  It's bad to feel close to tears as soon as you get out of bed.  But that's where I was.

I headed for the coffee pot which Frank had already prepared.  (All I had to do was push the "Start" button.  He's the original Good, Good Man!)

As I stood waiting for a cup to brew, I felt a strong impression that I should skip my own devotions and watch the Joyce Meyer program.

"How silly!"  I thought.  "Her TV program is the bonus after your own devotions!  Besides, I really need a peaceful morning.  Not another challenge."  (Which is usually what I get when watching her program.)

But the impression turned to an urging.  And I know enough to pay attention when the Lord prompts me that strongly.

So I cuddled my cup of coffee and ambled over to the sofa.  Joyce Meyer was already preaching to a packed auditorium as I tuned in.  Her first words?  "This life is a whirlwind and you need peace!  You can have the peace that Jesus died for you to have!"

Okay, I'm listening!

She went on to preach a wonderful message and I jotted notes on a piece of scrap paper I found lying near me.  These are some of the encouraging phrases I recorded:
  • Peace is a power position.
  • HOLD your peace. (Pursue, Crave, Want Peace)
  • Peace requires - trust, humility, forgiveness
  • Don't spend your life trying to change what you can never change.
  • Let peace be the umpire.
  • What I make happen for others, God will make happen for me.
  • The only thing I can change is ME!
Her message was so life-giving and timely that I tuned in a second time to hear it again.

While getting ready for the office and while driving, I kept rehearsing some of the key phrases.  Pondering the central truth: Christ left His peace for our help.  It's up to us to lean on that peace.

In my bedroom chair sits a pillow that Mom cross-stitched when she was first diagnosed with cancer.  Three simple but profound words call to me (as they did to her) every time I look at it.


Mom discovered that in this whirlwind we call life, Jesus quietly calls.  "Come to me.  I'll give you peace."

And although the storm keeps raging, we stand strong because our hearts are wrapped in His loving arms.

I'm choosing to put myself there today.  How about you? 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Wedding Invitational

When our middle daughter (Joy) married the man of her dreams in 2008, we had one full year to plan.  We subjected every single detail to great scrutiny!

And when she finally walked down the aisle thirteen months after John's proposal, we knew this wedding would fulfill almost all their combined dreams.  Such a beautiful afternoon ceremony and celebration.  A lovely time was had by all!

When our third daughter (Meagan) married her beloved in 2011, we had only five short months from proposal to ceremony.  Yes, I'm completely serious!

Fortunately, Nathan comes from a small family.  Meagan had suspected a proposal for several months.

Once the ring appeared, planning kicked into high gear.  That morning in July, Meagan walked down the aisle to a song she and Becky (Nathan's mom) had co-written and recorded.  Every desired detail in place.  A lovely time was had by all!

Now, it's Kristin's turn.

First child.  Last to marry.  Thirty-one years of dreaming; planning; hoping; praying.

Cody proposed on Easter Sunday.   Kristin tried on her first bridal gown the following Tuesday.

It took a couple of weeks to choose the date; October 24th.  (Yes, a Friday.  Kristin wanted everyone to "recover" before church on Sunday.)

We were all pleasantly surprised by the proposal. But that meant no foundation of prior planning.  Consequently, not one spare moment has been wasted, I assure you.

After a dress, a date, and a venue, the invitations became priority #1.

Cody is a graphic designer.  So naturally, he designed their wedding invitations.  After several different drafts, they settled on a creative lay out that reflects them both.

Of course, it involves pictures.  (Kristin has served as the family historian for years. Since Noah's birth, Meagan has discovered that she too has a great eye for photography.)  And words.  Cody is all about words!

Such joy as we sat surrounded by the envelopes, invitations, RSVP cards, stamps, etc.  We laughed and organized and checked and re-checked lists and stuffed and stamped.  At 9:00 PM last night we were finally finished.

Time to seal the envelopes and drive to the post office.  Victory was in sight!

Imagine our shock and horror as we dampened the first envelope and discovered that it would only partially seal.  The next one bubbled!  The third one refused to stay closed at all!!


Yep!  Of all the hundreds of thousands of heavy linen envelopes produced by the paper company used by our long-time printer, our two hundred envelopes have a faulty glue! 

The very envelopes that are already addressed to places as far away as Venezuela, England and the Philippines. Two hundred fully prepared envelopes that bear specially purchased "wedding" stamps.

I placed a call to our printer first thing this morning.  She's a friend who has done a lot of work for our church.  Lisa quickly offered to provide more envelopes free of charge.

That's the only time I raised my voice.  "Oh mercy, no!"

I regained my composure quickly.  "These are all stuffed, addressed and stamped.  They're completely ready for the post office.  I'm just calling so you can contact the supplier before we bring them in.  Hopefully, they will have a solution for us that involves a sealant nicer than Elmer's school glue." 

I offered a nervous chuckle to smooth the tension we both sensed.

As soon as I finish this post, Kristin and I will head to the printer's shop.  Please join us in crossing fingers.  Otherwise, the postal delivery people will be struggling with sticky fingers for days to come!

It's a road bump we didn't anticipate.  But we hope to have these beautiful bits of graphic artistry in the U.S. mail no later than 5 PM today!

Whew!  Stayed tuned as we Embrace the Grace for another fabulous wedding.  We anticipate that the report will again be, "A lovely time was had by all!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Every Day

"It's all in a day's work!"

Such a simple line that encompasses more variations than "you can shake a stick at!"

If the end of that last sentence brought a quizzical expression to your face - you have no idea what it means - neither do I.  It's just one of those great phrases my southern mom used all the time.  It made sense to her and her delivery made people laugh.  Win/Win!

Part of my "day's work" involves talking.  (Thank heavens there's gainful employment available for people who like to talk!)  The other part, of course, is listening.

I just got off the phone with one of the most beautiful women in our church.  Her name is Florence and she's been a widow for some years.  Her snow white hair frames delicate features that easily break into a smile anytime she sees you.

And Florence SEES everyone around her!

She's been out of church for several weeks.  First knee surgery and recovery.  Now, breathing problems that make the Florida heat unbearable without constant air conditioning. 

I've missed her ready smile, the sincere hug, and being SEEN by Florence.

The purpose of my phone call was to simply offer a few words of encouragement.  Let her know we're thinking of her and praying for her.

She caught me up on the happenings in her life.  I shared with her about the wonderful church services we've been enjoying.

Because she was home alone, I asked if I could just pray for her over the phone?  She eagerly accepted the offer.  My words were uncomplicated.  The requests to our Father, simple.  The time spent praying was actually rather short.  But her sweet voice popped with excitement as together we said, "Amen!"

"Ms. Florence, it felt like we were right in the Throne Room of Heaven as we prayed!" I said with a bit of surprise.

"There wasn't any static on that telephone line, now was there?!" she quipped.  It was easy to envision the beautiful smile.

During our VBS work this summer, the theme kept coming back around to the importance of prayer.  Not the kind of prayer that's intimidating and verbose.  Just the talking-with-a-friend kind of prayer.

The children got it right away.

Only grown-ups can complicate what was intended to be simple.

That brief moment of connection between Ms. Florence, myself, and our Heavenly Father refreshed me.  I'm ready to finish the day and to engage in the prayer service coming later.

The call was intended to be a help to her but I ended up being encouraged as well!

Ms. Florence wasn't lonely as I had suspected.  She had already been talking with the Dearest of Friends.  Getting in on their conversation was a bonus for my work day.

Take a little time and talk with this Friend right now.  I'll bet you'll find out like we did....there's no static on that line!