Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mr. & Mrs.

Mr. and Mrs. Cody McGhee are currently enjoying their honeymoon in Charleston, SC.

It was a truly RESPLENDENT (you knew my favorite word was coming, right?) wedding in every way!
Kristin walked the aisle with a smile that defies description.  Cody tried to look stoic but it was a lost effort when those doors opened, revealing his beautiful bride on the arm of her father.

So many details to record.  So many fun and poignant stories to share.  Trust me, I'll try my best to tell them all.  But today weariness has set in and emotions are running too high to uncork the bottle.

Frank and I made plans to leave town for a few days after the wedding.  We'll be going with Phil and Sue, our dear friends from England, to finish this week at Daytona Beach.

One quick snapshot: You may remember that Frank and I took a dance lesson in preparation for the big day.  We managed to master the "Box Step" and we were off and running. 

Did you know you can do the box step to almost any song?  Slow box step.  Fast box step.  Big steps.  Tiny steps.  By the time we added a little side-to-side rocking step and a simple twirl, we were ready for the dance floor!

Frank's dance with Kristin was so lovely.  They talked and box stepped and laughed.  Near the end of the special song ("My Girl!"), the sisters joined them.  They all four did "The Egyptian Walk" like they've done since they were tiny girls following their daddy around the living room.

Someone suggested that I join them.  "No, this has been their special Daddy-Daughter dance for years.  My part is to watch and clap."  Which I did!

Later in the evening, Frank and I had another opportunity to demonstrate our Box Stepping Skills.  I turned and saw my precious mother-in-law sitting patiently at the family table. 

Knowing how much she has always loved dancing, I whispered to Frank that he should go invite her to the floor. 

"What about you?" he asked.

"I'll ask Daddy to dance with me," I declared boldly.  Frank looked doubtful.

Those who know about my growing up years, understand that such an invitation for my dad is really unthinkable.  Dancing was grounds for immediate dismissal from any pastoral position back in his day.

But I asked anyway.

And to my great surprise, after very little urging, my dad backed his chair from the table and followed me back to the dance floor.

"I don't even know what I'm doing," he protested weakly.

"It's okay,"  I tried to sound confident.  "Just rock back and forth.  We'll look great!"

Daddy and I "danced" for the second half of the song.  My sister caught my eye and we gave each other the raised-eyebrow, total-shock look.

Neither of us had ever seen our dad dance.  But he did. 

And those few moments created a memory I'll cherish for the rest of my life.  

Kristin and Cody sent a text to let us know they arrived safely.  Yesterday she posted a picture showing them as relaxed and totally enjoying their time together.

Thank you for all the extra prayers and well-wishes!   Their wedding day was one kissed by the Father Himself!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week of Finals

When we were in college, finals week was notorious for being difficult.

Life became a vacillating whirlwind of both activity and focus.

One minute found us rushing, dashing, getting loose ends tied up with professors, work, and other students.  (Because as soon as finals ended, we were heading HOME!)

The next minute found us totally focused; surrounded by the books and notes from class.  Nothing else mattered right then except making certain we had it all covered.

That whirlwind of activity and focus is being repeated for me this, the last week before the wedding.

Rushing, dashing, tying up loose ends.  STOP - Webb and Amanda just arrived.  And they brought LUKE!  (Luke is the newest member of our "family" which we hadn't met yet.  Absolutely squish-ably marvelous!)  Time to focus.

Hey, hurry up.  Out the door!  Time to meet the wedding party!

You get the idea.

Yesterday morning, the word "finals" meant something a little different for me.

We all get up very early on Sunday mornings around here.  It's the biggest day of the week for the  Hawley clan - and all extended members.   Ritual and routine are the friends that keep us on track.

Frank makes the coffee and I make hot tea.  Once the tea has brewed, I usually take a cup to Kristin and find out if she's riding with me or with her dad to church.  It's been a nice catch up time, if she's available. 

I didn't sleep well at all on Saturday night so I more or less stumbled into the kitchen once the smell of coffee wafted to the bedroom.  After a few sips, I  started the hot tea and located favorite cups.  (Did I mention we're big on ritual and routine?)

As I poured the milk into her cup, truth hit me like a sharp slap - this was the final time I'd take hot tea to Kristin on a Sunday morning.  Next Sunday, she'll be on her honeymoon.  And when she and Cody return, her address will be different.

I had to stop a moment and gather myself.  Sunday morning is no time for a major melt-down.  And stray tears would have only made Kristin sad.  No point in us both feeling that way.

Her door was opened slightly.  So I took in the steaming tea cup as I've done a hundred other Sundays.  Said the standard good mornings.  Got my information and went out to my prayer chair for a moment.

Sitting in the darkness, I pondered what's in store for us all once the celebration on Friday is complete.

Well meaning people say things like, "Oh, you'll be so glad to have all your girls married."  "Third wedding?  This must be old hat to you!"  "Wow, I'll bet you're going to be relieved."

Not one of those statements is true.

I'm just like most moms.  There are days that I'd gladly rush right back to the Sundays when all three girls were tiny with huge bows clipped into their curly hair.  Twirling in ruffled dresses that came from dear friends at C&K Clothing in MO.  Red tights and fat feet stuffed into black patent leather shoes.

It's easy to close my eyes and see them standing in front of me.  (All except Joy who would be in the other room playing until the last possible moment.)

Time has marched on.  There have been some finals weeks that I didn't recognize as "finals."

But this week, I know it.

And sitting in my chair Sunday morning, the finality of it all threatened to over turn my emotional rowboat.

That's when the Father used a simple chair to whisper comfort to my heart.

We have a beautiful, little antique chair sitting in the corner of our new dining room.  It matches absolutely nothing and really isn't sturdy enough for the boys.

But the design of the chair is so lovely that we keep it anyway.  Intricate cut outs and curves, turned legs, a cane bottom, delicate unexpected designs.

I stared absent-mindedly at the chair while my thoughts swirled.  Final cup of hot tea.  Final good-night hugs.  Final wardrobe corrections for mom.  Final..........and ever so gently the Father broke in.

"Sheri, look at the chair."  It's simple beauty made me smile a bit.  "When you look at that chair, what do you see that makes you enjoy it so?"

I thought for a moment.  "Mostly it's unusual carved pieces," my heart answered His question.

"Someone had to cut away part of the original wood to create those designs.  Do you focus on what's missing when you look at it?"

"No, Lord.  That would be silly," I thought.

"Exactly!"  That's when He painted a perspective picture of comfort for me.

"You appreciate what IS there.  You don't focus at all on what's missing.  And that's why you're able to enjoy the chair.   Too many people miss the joy of what IS by focusing only on the missing or changed parts of life.  Choose to SEE what's good in the change, Sheri.  Then you can enjoy the beauty created by the change."

Such a gentle whisper that I might have missed it if I wasn't in the habit of listening.

"You're right, Lord,"  my heart responded.   "Good things are coming for her once Kristin changes her name to Mrs. Cody McGhee.  If I let myself get bogged down in all the "finals" of this week, I'll risk missing the joy!"

I dropped my head and asked for His help in choosing to focus on what IS instead of feeling sorry for myself about what feels like things cut away from me.

He is indeed the God of all comfort.

Five more days of "finals" for this mama.  Then the sun will rise on the wedding day bringing years of firsts.

That's where I'm focusing!


Friday, October 17, 2014


A week from Friday!

For years people have looked at Kristin and casually said, "So, Kristin.  When will YOU be getting married?"  (Like somehow they thought they were the first to ask that question.)

Eventually, she came up with a response that she rattled off a thousand times even though she wasn't dating anyone, "Oh, a week from Friday!" 

Today that is literally the truth.  A week from Friday!

That's when the dreams Kristin has nurtured for years will be walked out.  In a single day, all those dreams will become memories that warm her heart for a lifetime.

Cody is such a fine young man.  He loves God.  He treats his parents and grandparents with great respect.  (One of Frank's benchmark measurements through the years.)  He lights up when he sees Kristin and responds lovingly to her.

They surprised us when they revealed they've both been praying that as a result of the wedding ceremony they've planned, someone will choose to make Christ the Lord of their life, too.  What more could we ask?

John (our first son-in-law) is the ultimate organizer.  So on Wednesday after church, we all worked on a "Wedding Day Play Book."  I had to bail out around midnight; since my normal bedtime is 9:30.  Kristin, John and Cody worked on until 2:45.

The result was a 36-page detailed description of schedules, point people, lists, job descriptions, set-up/clean-up instructions, sound, lights, music.  Every single element from Wednesday morning to Friday night is COVERED!

It brings a lot of comfort and peace to know that we've thought it through to the best of our ability.  Now when the glitches come up, someone else can look at the book and make a decision on our behalf.  All we have to do is focus on the bride, the groom, and the joy of the moment.

Today Frank and I take a little trip to do a couple's retreat for a church three hours north.  Perhaps a crazy decision to accept the invitation for the week-end before the wedding; but we had our reasons.

The first of our wedding guests arrive tomorrow.  Let the celebrating begin!

I read such a timely scripture this morning from the writings of Jeremiah - "I have loved you with an everlasting love....."  May that be the testimony of these two precious young people - beginning a week from Friday! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Wedding update - We're now under the two week mark!!

Final meetings.  Final fittings.  Bridal portraits.  Final purchases.  Final counts.  Dance lessons.  Finishing touches.

WAIT!  Back up!  Did you say "Dance Lessons?"

YES!!  Frank and I finally created time to take the dance lesson he purchased for my birthday over a year ago.  And it was SO MUCH FUN!!

Kristin and Cody joined us.  Teresa (the instructor) met us at her studio after hours to minimize the embarrassment factor.  We stumbled; tripped; stopped; started.  Tried again.  Did I mention that it was so much fun?!

Frank and Cody are truly GOOD men to willingly step out of their comfort zone in order to bring such joy to the women they love!

At one point, Teresa had me close my eyes in order to just focus on following Frank's lead.  (I had to follow without thinking.  He had to be decisive in leading.  There's an illustration for our next couple's retreat in that, right?! )

With my eyes closed, the "box step" I was attempting made better sense.  We had gone several measures into the song when it hit me.......I was dancing!  And I couldn't help it, I began to cry.

Frank knew he had hit a "husband home run" and his smile lit up the room.

The lesson actually became a pretty accurate measure of where we are as a couple.

It was a pleasant surprise for the two strong-willed leaders to discover that the wife (that would be me) was able to quickly step into the role of follower.  Making it much easier for the husband (that would be Frank) to direct our steps and keep us moving safely in the right direction.

The dance required two separate people.  We both had an important part to play.  But in order to accomplish our common goal, we had to move as one.  That's when our "working together" became something beautiful.  And we thoroughly enjoyed the results!

Yep, dancing is definitely a great sermon illustration! 

Some people wouldn't understand the significance of this gift Frank gave to me.  But Frank has known me for over 35 years now.  There aren't many corners of my heart he doesn't know.  My dreams, my needs, even a few wants are totally on his radar.  And I'm thankful!

Kristin and Cody spent the last part of the lesson working on the first dance they'll share as husband and wife.  Kristin (who has always loved to dance) never stopped smiling.  Cody (who could live his entire life without ever dancing) saw her smile and kept twirling.   

Smart man to follow the lead of his new father-in-law.  Smart man to create another reason for his new mother-in-law to love him.

Have to admit, my arms, hips, knees and feet are not experiencing the warm glow of joy this morning.  But that's why we have Aleve, right? 

And they better get used to it.  Because now that I know I can........there will be more dancing in my future.  (We briefly contemplated removing all the living room furniture but decided against it.)

Time to get moving again.  Our precious church family has chosen today for blessing Kristin and Cody with gifts for the home they'll create together.  Everyone is excited.

I'm hoping your day is a lovely dance with the Father as He leads and you follow!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I took a trip on a pirate ship last night.

No, it wasn't a bad dream - more like a dream come true.  Wait, let me back up and explain.

If you're a regular here, you know that my life moves pretty fast.  This past week it seemed to hit warp speed and started moving faster than ever, even by my estimation.

We're now 17 days out from the wedding!   Yes.  Yes, that IS less than three weeks.  Thanks for calculating it with me.

We've enjoyed two lovely showers and the biggest is coming this Saturday at church.  We've moved to the "Must be completed!" section of the planning booklet.  We're experiencing the "Okay, if we haven't gotten this by tomorrow, we'll just go in a different direction" phase.  It's crunch time, baby!

I think we heard the gears shifting after we attended two other weddings this past Friday and Saturday.  (Oh, and did I mention that we threw a yard sale in there Saturday morning just because it HAD to happen before the wedding and that was the only window available?  My husband is a saint!)

Yep, warp speed!

A frequent question these days is, "How ya doin'?"  This is asked as we screech to a halt and stare intently at the person we're questioning.  We listen closely.  They speak in short sentences.

Then we squeeze a hand.  Pat a shoulder.  Offer a hug and dash on.

Last night, it was Abby who looked deeply into Noni's eyes and in her own way asked "How ya doin'?"  To the casual observer it sounded more like, "Noni, you wanna do da puzchel?"

But I knew what she meant. 

John and Joy offered to share left overs for an easy family dinner last night.  Everyone jumped on it.  Even left overs at their house is a great meal.   (We brought the ham and field peas a dear church member had prepared for her frazzled pastors.  It immediately became a Feast!)

Frank and I finally arrived and I flopped wearily on the living room couch.  After smiling at Spencer, Abby and Poppa working a huge puzzle in the floor, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes.

It only took a few minutes for Abby to notice that I wasn't engaged.  She came and leaned on the arm of the couch,  just staring at me.  I kept my eyes partially closed and tried not to smile as her big blue eyes searched my face.

A pudgy little hand stroked mine and that's when the raspy whisper came.  "Noni.  Noni!" I opened my eyes a bit more.

The wise two year old flashed her trademark smile and bobbed her head while looking directly at me.  "You wanna do da puzchel?"

Which being interpreted means, "It's gonna be okay, Noni.  You always smile when you play with us.  Come play.  It'll make you feel better, I know!"  And she was right.

We played.  We ate.  We laughed as Noah made clear that his parents weren't feeding him fast enough.

Abby generously offered to taste the "chi-chen" on my plate.  She made sure I had ham "jush yike me!"  Spencer leaned in, put his hand to his mouth and whispered his invitation to go sailing after dinner.

The sparkle in his beautiful eyes and the dimpled cheeks were irresistible.

So as soon as we cleaned up the kitchen, Noni moved to the play room.  I did an unattractive, commando-style crawl into the only "Noni-sized" space under their pirate ship.  Somehow, both babies squeezed their bodies in around mine.  We huddled and whispered and giggled.

When Noah joined us, he directed things with the one word I've heard him say, "Chehtsch!"  It's a command, really.  And he's typically holding a ball or some other pint-sized flinging object when he barks it out.  (His first birthday is FRIDAY!  I know, unbelievable isn't it?!)

"Chehtsch!"  He's so intent that you just know if he could only figure out how to balance on one foot, he would be stomping the other.  Heaven help you if you aren't watching when he launches said object.

For the next little while, Captain Spencer steered our ship through two storms.  We searched for "buried trejure."  First-mate Abby, brought imaginary dinner.  Somehow Noni got hit in the nose with a make-shift sword. And Noah flung various "supplies" toward the ship to assist us on our journey.

By the time I finally began to uncurl my aching limbs and inch my way out of the too-tiny spot I'd taken over, we'd made a great memory.  A great memory for Noni, at least.

And as I bid farewell to the ship's crew (collecting kisses and hugs from each one)  Spencer called out, "Noni. Say, say, say 'Good-bye, Captain!'"

My heart swelled, "Good-bye, Captain!"  I gave a little salute.  "Thanks for a great voyage!"

The captain and first-mate looked at each other - both very pleased with themselves for pretending so well.

And Noni went home knowing she had just enjoyed a dream come true evening. 

Even if you live a frenzied life, be sure to "chehtsch" the important moments!  Those are the real treasure chests hidden away for our life-time bank accounts.