Monday, March 23, 2015

Great Gifts

What do the following have in common?
  • A Reader's Digest Magazine
  • Six Pink Roses
  • A Tomato Plant
Well - to the casual observer - nothing! 

But when you've studied a woman for many years the way my husband has studied me, these things have a LOT in common.

In fact, just last week I said to the good man, "Honey, bring home a surprise for me, will you?"  (Hey, I said he's good.  Not perfect.  Sometimes they need a little prompt.) 

It was supposed to be our day away from the office but hadn't really worked out that way.  So when he got home, he had a lovely bunch of roses and a Reader's Digest magazine for me.  Truly great gifts!

Of course, I immediately responded with a little squeal and a big hug for him.  (Appreciation is important in every relationship.)

He then announced to Gracie and me, that my final surprise was hidden and I would have to find it.  The search began but also ended quickly when he went to stand by the front door.  (Not so good with surprises either.)

I opened the door and discovered a tall, healthy tomato plant proudly sitting beside my geraniums.  A careful inspection revealed that the plant is loaded with tiny tomatoes already forming.

Well, you know this gleaned another hug for the preacher from his pseudo country girl.  Can't help it, I love tomatoes and watching things grow!

For some reason, it seemed important to tell this short story today.  But to also bring balance to any inaccurate picture of an always peaceful, present producing, hug providing couple.

Frank and I are totally normal people, I assure you.  We disagree. And sometimes our disagreements turn in to full blown arguments.   We prefer to say that we have "volume discussions!"

When our marriage was in its younger years, I often looked at other couples and surmised that they probably never had a cross word.  If they disagreed at all, surely they quickly kissed and made up before anyone could get their feelings hurt.

That wrong image of perfection often caused me to feel discouraged about our own relationship.  We were both firstborns.  Headstrong.  Visionary.  And seldom ever wrong.  (Or so we thought!)

I would often sit in church rehearsing the argument we'd had in the car on the way in to the parking lot.  Certain in my heart that no other couple (young or old) struggled like us.

But there's a reason trash cans sitting by the curb each week are opaque.  No one wants their trash seen by other people.  It's sufficient just to know that we all produce it.  And we're thankful that there's an easy way to clear it out of our homes.

That's what I think I'm supposed to share with some precious heart out there who mistakenly believes no other marriage has to deal with "trash" times the way they do.

Trust me, dear one, there are no perfect marriages!  Every honest relationship has moments, disagreements, hurts.  And we're all thankful other people don't have to see those times. 

So take heart!

And I'll even tell you the easiest way for clearing the trash times out of relationships.  Let me share a quote with you from Ruth Bell Graham.  "A Happy Marriage is the union of two good FORGIVERS." 

Yep, it's the easiest way to have a healthy relationship with anyone.  Especially with your spouse! Choose to forgive - quickly; frequently.  Kick those trash moments to the curb and don't allow them to sit around stinking up the place.

Forgiveness really is a great gift we give ourselves!



Monday, March 16, 2015

Stand Still

Our latest project is at a Stand Still!

When my dad came to visit at Thanksgiving, he asked a dangerous question.  "Sheri, what do you and Frank plan to do out here?"

He had stepped outside the new back door off the newly closed in dining room (formerly known as our back porch.)  He found new dirt, a dozen new stepping stones, and a new project just waiting to be started.

I'm a choleric personality and I ALWAYS have a plan for what I'd like to do next.  Fortunately (after living this long) I've learned to try and balance my choleric side with the gifts of patience and pacing things.

The answer to Dad's question came easily. 

"Eventually, we want to pour a concrete slab and add a screened porch out here.  But that's a long time away.  We need to save a while before jumping into a project like that.  So for right now, we're re-purposing these stones we had around the koi pond as a back step.  It's working okay.  The room turned out great, didn't it?!"  I turned his attention back to the lovely dining room.

(Dad had graciously helped start the room project two years ago while visiting.  Since Mom died, we've noticed he enjoys blessing his kids when he knows what it's going toward.  I wanted him to hear again how grateful we were for his gift toward the dining room!)

And with that brief exchange, Dad and I headed out the door for our next appointment.

Later in the day, Dad approached Frank who hadn't been part of our earlier conversation.  Fortunately, he and I have discussed our dream plans many times.  "Frank, how much will it cost to pour that concrete and put a screened room on there like Sheri wants?"

Frank isn't as delicate with financial matters and my dad as I am.  "I'm not sure Dad; but I'll call a friend right now and find out."  Which he did immediately.   Several men in our church are involved in construction and they usually know a man who knows a man who knows......

Within hours, Frank had a quote which he promptly shared with my dad.

At breakfast the next morning, Dad took a deep sigh.  The kind of deep sigh he usually takes when he's reaching deep into his wallet, and surprised us both.

"Sheri, Frank told me what it would cost to get you a back porch.  If Raymond can do it for that,  go ahead and get them to do it.  I'll send you the money for it.  But now you KNOW that's going to be your Christmas present - for a long time to come!"

We all laughed loudly as I jumped up to give him a big hug.  (Of course, we knew he meant it was Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary, Easter, Fourth of July......... all for a very long time!)  Frank and I expressed our appreciation again and again during the rest of his visit.

The project ran into several glitches along the way.  The first was pretty serious.

Our house is not near city water/sewage lines so we have county water and a septic tank.  When the builders put in the septic tank, they did not expect future owners to have a parent who would want to help said owners expand the house.  Therefore, the tank was put the closest required distance from the back wall.  

As soon as Raymond came out to measure for the concrete, he discovered the problem.  Our proposed location would have the new porch sitting right over the septic tank.  Which, of course, is not allowed.  We pondered this for several days.

Finally, we determined that the porch could just go on the other side of the dining room.  (Have you guessed the next glitch?)  Yep, that meant our back door was now on the wrong side of the room!  Never a dull moment.

A few other conundrums got thrown in along the way.  But as I write this post,  Gracie and I are sitting on the very porch we dreamed about.  Enjoying cool breezes and a bug-free hour thanks to the screening.

So why the title "Stand Still" you may ask?  So glad you did.

Because, we are indeed at another stand still.

Ed (also a builder) came over last week to measure for our new door.  While he graciously offered to put it in at no cost, (yes, we do have amazing friends) we must purchase another door exactly like the one on the east side of the room or it will look like a haphazard mess.

While we have some money ready to designate for the door, the one we need has gone up in cost a bit.  And the saving parties (that would be us) are also saving toward their upcoming trip to Israel (that would be three weeks.)

It took no time at all to decide that the door can wait!

Frank called Ed and shared with him that we plan to add the extra door later this summer.  We couldn't control the timing nor resources; so, it just seems like wisdom to wait.  Ed understood the "stand still" perfectly.

And this morning as I pondered the new phase of our project, I was reminded that standing still isn't always a bad thing.  In fact there's a great passage of scripture that tells us to ".....stand still and see the salvation (help or answer) of God."

In fact, it proves to be a great reminder for me concerning several prayer "projects" I'm focused on right now.

I cannot control the timing of an answer nor do I have the resources to fix the situations.  But if I can resist fretting and choose instead to stand still (wait patiently for HIS answer) it will all work out much better.

Our heavenly Father DOES know the best timing for each answer and His resources have NO limits.

Now that's a project stand still we can all support!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


It's time!

I can hardly contain my excitement!

Four weeks from this very Wednesday, Frank and I will get off a plane and step onto the soil of the Holy Land!  (Well, more likely onto concrete.  But you know what I mean.)

Many years ago, my mom learned about the phrase uttered often by Jewish people in ancient times, "Next year in Jerusalem!"

This shout of declaration apparently referred to their desire for being in the Holy City. (I looked it up and have a longer explanation at the bottom of this post.)

Any time we talked about a dream, something we longed for or even a disappointment, Mom would end the conversation by throwing her hand into the air and shouting in her best Yiddish accent, "Oh well!  Next year in Jerusalem!"

For me, it stuck.  And I've heard it again and again in my heart over the years.

Now.  Finally.  At long last.  It moves from a "dreamed for" event to - It's Happening!

My heart beats faster and my ears perk up with every news report mentioning Israel.

Some have asked if we're concerned about going to the Middle East with so much turmoil.  My response, the Middle East has been in turmoil for almost 3000 years.  And I don't mean that to sound flippant.  Those who have traveled there tell us Israel is well protected and dangerous areas are completely off limits to tourists.

(Even for tourists like my husband who makes friends everywhere and often gets invited to some interesting spots.  Caution is very different from fear.)

As we read guidebooks and watch travel videos, we see this phrase a lot:  "Israel, Welcome Home!"
And I must admit, it feels a little like that in preparing ourselves.  A little like going home.  Israel is a nation I've read about and followed almost every day of my adult life.

I've memorized portions of the Sermon on the Mount.  Now, I'll stand on the Mount!

I've sung countless times about the Via Dolorosa.  Now, I'll walk that road.

I've taught about David and Goliath.  We'll visit that very valley.

I am named for a rose that originates in that region of the world.  I'll experience its native habitat.

I've directed re-enactments of the Last Supper.  We'll see the very room.

I've followed Jesus' example of water baptism.  I'll put my feet in the Jordan River.

I've pondered his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I'll be shaded by similar trees.

I've taught my children about the power of the cross.  We'll quiet ourselves at that location.

I've celebrated the empty tomb.  We'll peer into a cave marked as His tomb.

And since the first time I read of people standing at the remains of the Western Wall of the Temple to pray, I've longed to stand there.  I'm crying now just thinking about being able to place the names of my children in a crevice of that wall.  It seems like it must surely be an incredibly sacred experience.

I'm overwhelmed!

Anticipating things is such a wonderful part of life.  Especially when we anticipate things we know will take place.  I think of all the times Mom's eyes would sparkle as she shouted, "Next year in Jerusalem!"

Now it's my eyes shining as I call out, "Next MONTH in Jerusalem!"

*Extra information I found explaining the phrase -
              "But our phrase also offers a more majestic sense of hope. The uttering of "next year in Jerusalem" is a way of expressing solidarity with Klal Yisrael, the entire Jewish community, past, present and future. "Next year" encapsulates that continuing flicker of hope that has sustained Jews for centuries past in the midst of despair. It also offers hope that the Israeli nation of today will find peace and that Jerusalem will remain a potential future haven."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Sunshine

I've been working like crazy today but it's been in relative silence.  An unusual and pleasant change.

Mondays are my catch-up day (as a rule.)  If at all possible, I work from home.  It allows me the luxury of focusing on one thing at a time.  AND at some point I usually manage to finish laundry.  (Since clean underwear is a relatively high priority for us, that's a bonus!)

Today has been devoted to wrapping up the final loose ends for a marriage retreat we have this weekend.  Hopefully, it will be an amazing event for those attending!

The sun has finally peaked out again in FL.  But I know most of you are still bundled to the hilt with hats, gloves and scarves.  And if you could live to be 100 and never again hear the words: ice, snow, over-cast, sleet, record lows, winter'd be quite happy!

So I'm posting a little humor today for those of you bravely battling the "BLAHS" brought on by Ol' Man Winter.

Last Monday, a knock came on my door.  When I opened it, a handsome little four-year-old burst in shouting, "It's a BOY!  Noni, it's a BOY!!"

I glanced over the top of his blonde hair to see Joy smiling and shaking her head in disbelief.

She had just said to Spencer and Abby while driving to my house, "Don't tell Noni what the baby is!  It's a surprise.  We'll tell everyone when we're together tonight for dinner."  (They had gone as a family that morning for the ultra-sound that revealed the gender of the new baby.)

Spencer was just too excited to hold in the great news another minute!

Joy had suspected this would be another boy all along.  Spencer will have a brother.  Abby is quite content to be the big girl.  Of course, John is pleased. 

Seems only their doctor is disappointed.  He's wanted them to have a girl and name her "Fiona" ever since he delivered the first Schreck baby!  Sorry, Dr. Maml

So by July, we'll have a total of FIVE grandbabies!  The boys will still out-number the girls at 3 to 2.  Bottles, diapers and pacifiers will be the real gold around our houses.  And deciphering toddler talk will continue as our favorite form of entertainment.

Everyone is talking now, including Noah.  He waited a while because with Abby and Spencer to let people know what he wanted, why should he bother?!  Smart kid!

In addition to his favorite, Chetsch (catch) he's added the following:
       Tease - Please
        Danks - Thanks
        Bup - Up
        Bawh - Ball (used for chetsching)
        Tuck - Truck
Still nothing sounding like "Noni" "Poppa" or "World's Best Grandparents" just yet.  But we'll keep you updated.

Of course, Spencer and Abby add to their vocabularies daily.  But this stage has its difficulties, as well.  They know exactly what they're saying.  And to them, the words they're using are exactly like the words we've taught them.

Only, their version of those words sounds a little different to our adult ears.  And, oh the exasperation when they have to repeat it three or four times for the slow, puzzled adults!

For example, almost every time Abby comes in to my office I hear this -  "Ina daw, Noni." 

After multiple tries (and utilization of the interpretation skills of her mom) she finally helped me understand that she wanted to draw"Ina daw!" Well, of course that's what she meant!
Perhaps that little key will help you decipher the conversation that followed.

"Hep daw my naym?"  "K'noo daw a kiss mas tee?"  "Wook Noni!  It a nake!"  "K'noo daw my hand?"  "I donna hope oo!"  (Big Smile!) "Ina mint peas!"  (If you read this blog as a tool for studying English, I apologize!)

What Abby meant to say was,  "Will you help draw/write my name?" "Are you able to draw a Christmas Tree?"  "Look, Noni!  I drew a snake!"  "Can you trace my hand?" "I'm going to help you!"  (Big Smile!)  "I love your mints, Noni.  May I have one, please?"

Our favorite Spencer story happened just recently.  John had gone in to pray with him before bedtime.  The two fellas were both draped over Spencer's tiny bed while John patiently listened to his son recount all the adventures of the day.

The stories were rather lengthy and John (being tired) had zoned out a bit.  But he perked up just in time to catch his then three year old son spreading his hands in exasperation, shaking his head in disbelief and saying, "Dad, it was.....  It was....  Well, it was just wediqulus!"   (You guessed it - "ridiculous!")

Danks for taking time to stop by today.  Peas, come again.  Here's hoping you chetsch some good weather soon.  That you daw closer to a friend.  And that your 2015 winter experience won't be too wediqulus!