Monday, April 27, 2015


If you've read Embrace the Grace for very long, you know that one of my favorite descriptive words in the English language is "resplendent."  It just rolls off the tongue with such elegance and form.

And our wonderful adventure in the land of Milk and Honey was nothing short of RESPLENDENT!

I've wrestled for a solid week with what my opening post should be about.  The sights?  The sounds?  The foods?  The people?  The atmosphere?

Should I tell of how I cried - in the Tel Aviv Airport on arrival?!

Would you prefer to hear about our wildly diverse group of touring pilgrims/historians/vacationers?

Could I adequately describe to you the sense of holiness at key locations?

These all beg rehearsing.  But to get me back on track, I've opted for an "Israel Story" that actually took place just after our return home.

Frank and I know that jet-lag is no joking matter.  Especially since we needed to be on our game by Monday for sure.  So when Cody picked us up in Orlando Saturday morning, we jumped right into the U.S. time.  A real challenge but necessary.

(To understand what that meant, try adding seven hours to whatever time it happens to be as you read this now.  I'm writing at 12:30 PM - which means it's currently 7:30 PM in Israel.  The clock may say one thing, but your exhausted body says something entirely different.  Now add to this little equation the fact that we only slept about three hours on the flight home.  You get it, right?)

In order to stay awake until we just could not hold our eyes open any longer, we did something a little nuts.  We went to a backyard barbecue with friends!

The laughter and noise kept us coherent if not fully alert.

After we'd been there about thirty minutes, Joy arrived with Spencer and Abby.  We got off in a quiet corner for that reunion.  No better feeling than little arms that squeeze sincerely. 

They came to sit with us as we finished our delectable pork and beef. ("Sitting with us" meant one in the chair with me, the other on my lap. And no, I didn't mind at all.)

As everyone buzzed in conversation around us, Spencer asked me a question but I couldn't really hear what he had said.  I leaned in closer and said, "What did you ask, Sweetie?"

Big blue eyes penetrated mine as sincerity oozed from his precious red lips.  He repeated his question a little more loudly, "Noni, did you and Poppa get to say, 'Hosanna! Hosanna!' for Jesus while you were in Iz-ah-rel?"

Palm Sunday had just been two weeks earlier.  He drank in the re-enactment of Christ's triumphal entry to Jerusalem.  He and the other toddlers waved palm branches enthusiastically while calling out "Hosanna! Hosanna!"  The teacher added, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!"

His one innocent statement became the frosting on the cake for me.  A four-year old totally understood that Noni and Poppa had visited the very place where Jesus walked.  And that we didn't go as tourists - we went as modern pilgrims to worship our Living Lord.

Tears stung my eyes as I pulled him close and said, "Yes, buddy!  We said 'Hosanna! Hosanna!' for Jesus and 'Hallelujah! Hallelujah!' too."

How thankful I am to have viewed an empty tomb in Jerusalem.  But my joy overflows in knowing that my grandson understands that Christ rising from the dead brings life to his little world as well!

Simply resplendent!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


It's finally HERE!  We leave for the airport in four hours. 

Of course, we've planned realistically based on my track record.  We need to leave for the airport in four and a half hours so the target time was moved up.  There are many of you out there who can totally relate.  You're the ones laughing with me and not at me.  Big difference!

The suitcases are packed and ready to zip.  I'm fielding last minute calls and texts.  Frank had a haircut and final office run.

This post is unbelievably short because I need to be showered and dressed when Frank gets back home.  But I also know that so many of you are excited with us and praying for had to be part of today as well.

One lady in our church called the office last week and asked that I call back.  When I finally got to return her call, I had my pen ready to jot down whatever it was she needed me to help with.  We chatted a few minutes; talking a lot about Israel.  Then I asked what I could do for her.

"I don't need anything, Pastor Sheri.  I'm just so excited about your trip.  It feels like I'm getting to go too!"

Tears sprang to my eyes.  She had called purely for the joy of celebrating with me.  What a gift!

Thank you too, dear reader, for being happy with us as we experience this lifetime dream fulfilled.  Can't wait to fill you in when we return April 18th!  Woo Hoo!

PS - Those who commented on the "Normal or Nuts" post seemed to think my odd ways are totally Normal!  Thanks for that encouragement!

Shalom, Y'all!  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Normal or Nuts

I'm not really sure if this is Normal or Nuts.  Hopefully, you'll weigh in and give me some perspective.

With those I care most deeply about, I have a genuine need to SEE their home; their environment.

What?!  Nuts!  Definitely Nuts!

Please reserve judgment until I can explain.

I first became aware of  my oddity when my sister moved to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.  She's my only sister and suddenly I had this overwhelming desire to SEE where she would be living, teaching, going to church.

We talked frequently on the phone and she described their home, her school, their grocery store - but that wasn't enough.  So my gracious husband put me on a plane to go for a visit.

After three days, I returned to NC satisfied.   I had a clear view of her new surroundings in my mind's eye and that brought me peace.

My best friend moved to Nashville, TN.  Another plane ticket.  Another three days of traveling around with her to experience the daily routine of one I love.  Clear perspective/total peace.

When John first announced his intention to marry Joy, I was greatly relieved that his mom (Linda) invited me to come to NY as a guest speaker for their spring ladies' event.  That trip took four days but it was wonderful!

I experienced the "home" of the young man who would become our first son.

I met the people who influenced him in church; drove past his high school.  Saw the backyard where he grew up playing with his brothers.  I walked the incredibly long driveway he helped shovel every winter; character in training!  Sat at the piano where he learned to play and stood in the basement where he learned to work on motors.    Deep Contented Sigh.

When the girls went away to college, I helped set up their rooms.  I knew where they were most likely sitting as we talked on the phone.  I understood how far their walk was to work in the campus bookstore.  I knew the house where they did nanny service.  Peace.

Probably my most extreme example of this was Kristin's time in India.  At eighteen, she got on a plane and flew halfway around the world to serve as a nanny and teacher for missionary friends.  We were only able to talk once a week for a few minutes at a time.  She tried to describe the people, the food, the scents, the heat, the churches - but it was an impossible task.

This place was changing her life and I had absolutely no visual image to relate to whatsoever!

It had already been planned that Frank would go over to minister, then fly back with her.  But Mom would be left trying to grasp the magnitude through only a few photos and stories.

Nope!  Plane ticket, please.  Fourteen days and thousands of miles later, I came home with my visual images firmly ensconced.  (And as a bonus, my own life-changing experiences!)

This morning as I sat in my prayer chair by the window and read of the Israelite children; of Jesus in the Temple; of the Psalmist David - I began to smile.  A big, goofy kind of smile.  The kind that just comes up out of your gut and takes over your face!

"I'm going to YOUR favorite place on earth, Father!"  It swept over me for the hundredth time.

Frank and I will stand on the Temple steps where Jesus stood. Step into the Jordan River.  We will walk through the dimly lit tunnel dug 2,500 years ago by Hezekiah.  We'll kneel in Gethsemane; glide on the Sea of Galilee. I'll finally SEE what I've spent all this time reading about and studying.

One week from today,  I'll land in Tel Aviv and begin my ten day journey to experience the home of One I have loved my entire life. 

My joy of anticipation knows no bounds!  There is certainty that this will be life-changing .

On second thought, if it's nuts - I'm okay with that!

But I'd still love to hear your vote.  Blessings!