Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mrs. Woodham

With schools closing for summer, I thought this excerpt from my latest project would be timely.  Thank you to all those teachers taking a much deserved break for the next few weeks!

We all have stories of how the words or comments of a teacher, a close relative or a friend have impacted us during our early years.  That impact often follows us through our lifetime.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Woodham, was a kind, tenderhearted lady.  I can still see her slightly frazzled hairstyle and that broad, welcoming smile that she seemed to flash so often.  

She was no push over!  We all understood that when Mrs. Woodham said, “Quiet!” she meant now.  But we also felt her joy and sensed her love for us as students.  She was glad to be a professional teacher.

If someone struggled, she knelt beside their desk and worked more closely with them a while.  I remember feeling her soft touch on my head or shoulder as a point of encouragement.  You see, I was one of those students who struggled.  Math was my nemesis.  But I came out of second grade feeling that I could conquer the struggle. 

In fact, it was Mrs. Woodham who first put the dream in my heart for becoming a teacher.  Her words of encouragement made me believe I could not only learn to add and subtract, I could one day teach others to do the same. 

Many times she would have me sit at her desk with a notepad if she stepped out for some reason.  As a class, we would each be doing our seat work.  It was my job to write down the name of any student who talked or got out of line in any way.

I’ll never forget the day I was the one who stepped out of line.  

Mrs. Woodham had put me at her desk with the notepad and whispered to me that she had to go to the office.  “I’ll be right back, Sheri.  Keep an eye on things.”

Apparently, I had become too comfortable in my role as classroom monitor.  A couple of students raised their hands to indicate they needed to use the pencil sharpener.  I nodded giving them permission to move from their desks.   A few began to whisper.  A couple more began giggling about something. 

In my most serious seven year old voice I called out, “Quiet, everyone!”  My imitation of Mrs. Woodham fell short and resulted in a ripple of laughter.  I had to laugh myself, it sounded so funny. 

I must have been a ham early in life because in a flash I found myself standing beside the desk of a friend doing my best to imitate Mrs. Woodham.  “The next student to speak is going to be disciplined, do you hear me?!”  I mimicked her scowl and wagged my tiny finger at the class in warning.  

We all burst out in loud laughter.

But the laughing halted immediately when we heard the original, “Quiet!” resounding from the back of the room.  Mrs. Woodham had walked in on my little show and she was not happy.  I don’t remember my exact punishment but writing about that moment still causes me to cringe a bit.

How did I have such a disappointing experience with her and still come out of that year believing Mrs. Woodham loved me?   It’s because she spoke words of affirmation daily.  Not just to me but to everyone in our class. 

“You CAN do this, Jeffery.  Don’t let it beat you.”

“I see how hard you’re trying, Marcia.  That’s important.”

“Judy, I’m proud of your effort on that homework.  Good job!”

I don’t know about any of those other second graders but her words were life to one little girl with brunette hair and slightly crooked teeth.  She enriched my life and used her words to paint a picture of possibility for me.  

I’ll forever be grateful.

What was the name of your favorite teacher?  What grade were you in when you encountered them?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Season of Love

Summer has begun and tomorrow is June 1st.  June - traditionally the most popular month for weddings.  (Although, wedding coordinators will tell you October comes in at a close second, now.)

Last Sunday, I got home just in time to watch a wedding that was being live-streamed.  A precious young lady we met while working in El Salvador, was marrying another minister from a different country.  Her father (who pastors in our area) conducted the ceremony with great joy.

You see, the bride had just come through major surgery due to cancer. (She is expected to make a full recovery with time.)  Her wedding day will forever be remembered as a day of triumph!

I must tell you, her beauty filled the screen as I watched.  And I can only imagine the euphoria felt by those gathered in the huge auditorium as witnesses.  Tears and laughter blended in the wedding celebration of those two dedicated Christ followers.

Their vows were powerful; describing how they had prayed for one another before they even met.  How they had intentionally chosen to follow God, trusting He would bring them together at some point on their life journey.

T.R.U.S.T.  Five simple letters strung together to describe something so complex.

The entire celebration of that dear couple showed the importance of trust again and again.

  • They each trusted God with the direction of their personal lives.  
  • That trust led them to find one another while serving in a country different than their own. 
  • They came to trust one another in that atmosphere of ministry.  
  • They declared their trust in spite of the bride's illness.  
  • They pledged their lives to one another, trusting for a future of hope and strength.

Frank and I counsel and marry couples all the time.  We talk with them about the impossibility of maintaining joy without trust.  And one of the most powerful books I've ever read on marriage presents trust in the most simplistic way.

The title is: Love and Respect.

The basic premise is this:  Women desire to be loved.  They want to know they matter to the man they entrust with their devotion.  Men desire to be respected.  It's built into their DNA.  They must know they are honored in the heart of their bride.

Paul even wrote about this in his letter to a church in Ephesus.  "Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church - a love marked by giving, not getting.  Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ."

In other words, we should each give what the other needs; then trust that our own desires will be met as well.  Simple but far from easy!

If I hold out to my husband the respect he deserves, his heart feels more fulfilled.  If he offers me the love I long to experience, I'll feel safe in that love.  My immediate response is to respect the man making me feel so loved.  Feeling respected causes him to love the woman who honors him so.

See the cycle?

Of course, the reciprocal is true with most things in life.  If I dishonor my husband, he has no desire to offer me love.  In that scenario, we both lose.

After 38 years of marriage, I choose to win.  Building trust by offering respect.  Receiving love that replenishes my very soul.

If you're looking for a good read this summer, I'd encourage you to get a copy of Love and Respect by Eggerichs.  It has changed the way Frank and I interact with one another.  It's taught us valuable lessons about the hearts of those we minister to.  It has given us a platform for building more trust.

And in this beautiful season of love, we could all stand to build a little more trust.  Right?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Have you already read the book I referenced?  What experience could you share as an encouragement to others?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pay Back

Some days this blog weaves stories of family.  Some days it's all about humor or current events.  Today I want to share a truth that has saved me a lot of frustration.  Hopefully, it will be valuable to you as well.

Let me start by saying, Parker Franklin is thriving under the watchful care of his doting parents.  Don't misunderstand, they aren't spoiling him.  I've actually heard him express displeasure several times since his birth two weeks ago.  And Kristin is sleeping at least three hours each night.

Baby Boy Smith is set to make his appearance at some point later this summer.  All Meagan's babies have followed the example of their mother.  She started trying to be born about three months before her due date.  Slow and steady is what we're praying once again over this little miracle.

But I promised a story about valuable truth and here it is:

Many years ago, I had a knock on my front door at an unusual time.  The visitor I welcomed inside didn't normally drop by unannounced, so my radar went up quickly.  Leaders know one thing is certain, you're never really certain what a day will bring.

The lady brushed off my offer of iced sweet tea (southern nectar) instead opting to drop right down on my couch.  She had come for a purpose.

She began by apologizing for a recent incident that really had hurt several people.  She was totally repentant for her part and even shed a few tears.  I listened closely encouraging her expressions.  But it felt like there was more to the visit.  And there was.

After clearing the air, my visitor swiped at her tears with the tissue I'd offered and deftly turned the conversation.  "Of course, it never would have happened if you hadn't......"  

In a split second, she went from repentant to accusing.  I'm sure my eyes went wide with surprise.  This lady was masterful.

Thank heaven I'd been taught long ago to listen until upset individuals can run out of steam.  If you're already in a private setting, interrupting them midstream seldom accomplishes anything.  So I sat nodding; trying to maintain my composure.

Toward the end of her tirade she referenced an event that took place long before I even lived in her city.  Another leader had indeed taken advantage at that time and this lady was still upset.

I tried gently to remind her that I hadn't even been around when that offense took place.  Her response made perfect sense to her, "I know that!  But you're a leader just like they were and you possibly could do what they did."

My head was spinning.

As the conversation wound down, I reached for my favorite phrase when facing a situation that's far above my pay grade, "I'll talk to Pastor Frank about this and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.  For now, let's pray!"

I did talk with Frank after dinner.  We were both stumped as to how we could best respond.  Frank is a pastor who relies heavily on his Heavenly connection.  "Let's just pray about this a few days.  Then we'll get back with her."

Two days later, during my devotion time, the answer came.  My dear friend and mentor, King David had experienced a similar situation.  He wrote about it in Psalm 69.  "Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head."  (Well, that was an exaggeration for my circumstance but it certainly helped me know he understood how I was feeling.)

Reading the next sentence was a definite "Aha!" moment for me.  "I am forced to restore what I did not steal."

I literally tapped my devotion Bible and read it out loud several times.  "That's it, Lord!  They want me to pay back what I didn't even steal from them!"

Someone had stolen the trust of this lady and her family.  She had experienced a terrible injustice at the hands of another leader.  No one was disputing that fact.  But the Someone who did it wasn't ME!

Fortunately, I had gotten up extra early that morning.  I had plenty of time to sit and ponder what I sensed the Father whispering to me through this scripture.

It's true, many times leaders are impacted by the poor choices of those who've gone before them.  No one is perfect.  We're all broken; we all need a Savior.  No human being gets it right all the time.  So picking up an offense about what they did, doesn't help at all.

If the Father (who looks on the heart of man) finds enough grace in your tank, He very well may tap you to bring healing where another has wounded.

Now we can yell, "Not Fair!" and He won't require it of us.  But His ultimate goal is to bring healing to all those who ask for it.  If you aren't the conduit of healing, He'll simply look for another venue.

Perhaps you too have found yourself in situations dealing with people still angry about past offenses. They can't get to the person who committed the injustice, so they attack you instead.  Dear reader, hurting people hurt people.  It's just that simple.

Is this a difficult mission?  Absolutely!  Do people recognize your sacrifice?  Seldom!  Is there really a purpose?  Always!

You see, there's a flip side to this seemingly unfair request from our Father.  He keeps excellent records.  When you or I offer ourselves as conduits of healing for others, we also become conduits of blessing!

He promises in Deuteronomy 6:10, we will eat from vineyards we didn't plant.  In other words, when we "pay back what we didn't steal" our Father smiles.  He makes note of our generous spirit and rewards us with blessings we don't really deserve.

Not bad, being rewarded by the King of Heaven, right?!

After much more prayer, my husband went to this lady and her husband with the strength of humility.  As a leader, he apologized to them for the hurt they had experienced at the hands of another and asked their forgiveness.

I'm not sure healing came to them at that point.  They had held to their hurt for many years and sometimes it's hard to let go of what has become familiar to us - even pain.  But that couple did tell others about the experience they had with Pastor Frank.  In fact, they told many people.

Others who heard the story quickly recognized the wisdom of their shepherd.  Their hearts were healed and they were able to trust him totally.  We began to experience blessing from many sources where we hadn't even planted.

If you're asked to do so, don't be afraid to pay back what you didn't steal.  Choose to be generous.  God keeps good records!

Have you had a similar experience?  You story may be an encouragement to someone.  We'd love to hear your comments:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Parker Franklin Has Arrived!

He's Here!  He's Here!

Did you hear the exuberant shouts of joy bouncing off the walls of the Winter Haven Women's Hospital last Wednesday?  Yep, that celebrating was from the family of Parker Franklin McGhee!

Cody stepped out and announced, "He's here!  He's perfect!  Kristin did Great!"  (He said some other things but I missed them.  I was busy taking the first deep breath I'd had in almost eight hours.)

As with every delivery there is a story.  The short version is this:  On Tuesday, the doctor made the call to do a cesarean section delivery on Wednesday morning.  And Parker was born.

(Come on!  Not one of the regular readers falls for that impossibly abbreviated version.)

We all arrived at the hospital Wednesday bright and early.  Kristin had been having severe contractions since 3 AM.  The nurse determined there wasn't a need for pain relief, she'd be in the operating room soon.

Unfortunately, "soon" was bumped back three different times by emergency deliveries that had to go ahead of her.  Her pain continued to increase; pain she wasn't mentally prepared to handle.  Cesarean deliveries come with enough pain AFTER delivery.  Laboring hour after hour before surgery isn't supposed to be part of the equation.

She labored quietly, focusing on the deep breathing and counter pressure techniques she and Cody had learned.  But you could see the intensity in her face.  All three of my girls are tough; they handle pain well.  I knew how bad this was getting.

We tried to stay calm and peaceful for her sake but every spike on the contraction monitor caused that much more concerned. Okay, I'll admit it.  As the pain increased, so did my frustration.  When they took her off the monitor and STILL didn't get her ready to move, my "mama bear" kicked in.

After waiting thirty more agonizing minutes, I went to the desk and politely asked to speak to her nurse whom we hadn't seen in quite some time.  I was told they would be coming to check on her in a moment. 

It was the brush-off and I knew it.  I'm not sure exactly what I said at that point in response, but I felt much better after I said it.

They came in to move her to surgery about ten minutes later.  We all joined hands around her bed and Frank prayed between two contractions.  (I repented.)

A quick kiss on her head.  A pat of encouragement on Cody's shoulder.   Away they went!

The four original parents of the two soon-to-be parents walked to our designated area to wait.

Parker was delivered in less than an hour.  But with pictures and stitching and tears and celebrating, it was almost three hours before someone reminded Cody to come let us know - All Is Well!

I shared with you in an earlier post the meaning of Parker's name but perhaps some of you missed that one.  Parker Franklin McGhee means:  "Gate Keeper of Freedom."  Powerful, right?!  A strong name was needed for the little man who will carry on the McGhee name for his ancestral American Indian Tribe.

Kristin is recovering well; trying to use wisdom and not overdo.  But she is already an amazing little mommie.  Cody has stepped into the dual roles of care-giver for his wife and dad for his son with marvelous abandon.  One of the earliest pictures was of Parker and Cody each looking intently into the eyes of the other.  (Brought tears to my eyes!)

I'll leave you with the profound words Kristin posted on her facebook page this week:
"I’ve been a Mommy to a tiny brilliant human for a grand total of 7 days and here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Surrounding yourself with a group of wise people who have been where you are is very important.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get may just get answers that let you know you’re not alone in your journey
3. Allowing people to help in any way they offer is a gift...don’t refuse it and letting them know your thankful goes a long way
4.Be grateful for every day even when it doesn’t go the way you want it to
5.Crying doesn’t make you weak
6. Laughing is what keeps you sane
7. Above all else talking to Jesus and giving him every insecurity and each victory is what makes life possible:)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Locked Out

We're all about babies around here these days.

Big babies.  Little babies. Babies graduating from kindergarten.  Babies due in three days.  Babies due in three months.  Caution: Do NOT drink the water around here if you don't want to experience BABIES!  :-)

Apparently, Madison Riley (who will turn three next month) has promoted herself to the big baby category.  Of course, Zach will turn three just a couple of weeks later.  But that doesn't seem to matter in her calculating, curly-blond head.

Last Sunday all the babies were playing in toddler church.  Madi climbed up onto a chair and propped her tiny red flowered shoes on the chair across from her.  She watched the other toddlers for a moment then looked up at the teacher.  With a serious face she nodded toward them and said, "You enjoying this show?!"  

Yep, that's our big baby alright.

This morning Meagan brought them by our house to pick up something.  Noah came bursting in with smiles and heart satisfying hugs.  Madi lagged a bit behind; talking all the way up the drive.  I knelt down in front of her so I was on her level and could better hear her.  "Okay, Madi.  Tell me again?" I asked.

She sighed, rolled her blue eyes, propped her hand on her minuscule hip and said, "Listen to my wuhds, Noni." 

Please bear in mind, if you burst out laughing at a moment like this it's highly offensive to toddler people.   So as the laughter swirls in my chest, I'm forced to bite my lip or cough or run for another room if I hope to keep them talking.

Baby!  Baby!

In other laughter news, I had a run-in with my patio door last Sunday morning.   It was one of those moments when you make a split-second decision to laugh or cry.  And you already know I laugh as often as possible.

Sunday mornings are pretty structured for us and we need to keep moving in order to stay on schedule.  Frank had already left before daylight.  I was almost completely ready and found myself with the luxury of an extra ten minutes.

I decided to save two dollars by eating cereal here instead of going through the drive-thru for my favorite oatmeal.  Since cool mornings won't be around much longer, I also decided to enjoy my cereal out on our screened room patio.

The birds were chirping. The sunrise was brilliant.  My heart was rejoicing in the loveliness of the day ahead.

A glance at my watch showed,"Time to get going."  So I jumped up and headed inside.

One small problem.  The door was LOCKED!

I jiggled the handle as though it would magically understand the importance of ignoring the lock and open anyway.  No Bueno!

Panic tried to rise in my heart but I thought, "Maybe I left the front door open."  Nothing to do but take off running around the house through the dewy grass.  Bare-footed, dress flowing, hair coiffed.  Praying my neighbors were still sleeping.

The front door was locked as well.

Back around the house to discover the third entry point had also been fastidiously secured and would now deny me entrance.  Phone in one hand, cereal bowl in the other I did what every wife does.....I called my personal hero.

"Frank!"  This was getting serious.  "I've locked myself out of the house!"  

Silence for a moment then I heard the familiar laughter-covering cough.  "Try the left dining room window.  It may still be unlocked."

"I'm trying,"  I said.  "But I can't get the screen off."  

It's one of those fancy screens that supposedly makes it incredibly easy to clean the windows from inside or outside.  Obviously, I haven't done either in a while because I couldn't get the screen to budge.

I put the phone on speaker and laid it on the nearest shrub.  Apparently my struggle with the screen had gotten rather intense because Frank later said he felt sure it would be snapped in two before I finished.

"Honey, are you okay?"  his voice sounded concerned.  Just then the screen gave way and I yanked it out of the window casing.

"I got it!"  I shouted with delight. Time was ticking. "I'm going in...."  

Please feel free to use your imagination at this point.  I happened to be wearing a lovely lavender frock with a full skirt and white polka dots sprinkled freely over the light weight fabric.  I had to push past the shrubbery in order to hoist one foot and leg over the window sill.

(As Madi would say, "You enjoying this show?")

I must have made a grunting sound at this point because Frank asked again, "Honey, Are you sure you're OKAY?  Be careful!"

With one leg in and one leg out; derriere in the most prominent and unattractive of positions; trying my best not to lose my balance, I managed a muffled "Yes!"

Praying deeper sleep on my neighbors, I somehow maneuvered the inside foot over farther and then fully committed to the swinging motion that would bring my other leg and foot inside.

Now in my head, this was a graceful, smooth, flowing-type movement made without hesitation.  Surely, the best Ninja move of all time.  In reality, if you had been watching from across the yard, I'm pretty sure you'd have a much different description to share!

To quote Madison Riley once more, "Listen to my words, dear friend."  If you decide to take a few minutes and treat yourself to a quiet breakfast on the patio, check the lock on your door first!  Otherwise, you may also end up with a new family story to tell.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

That's Right

Nine days and counting!  We're down to single digits!

Today marks nine days until we reach the due date of one Parker Franklin McGhee. The first child of our first child.  The first grandchild on Cody's side.  The seventh on our side.  A much anticipated and longed for little boy.

Every friend and relative he has yet to meet is over the moon with excitement as we watch for his soon arrival.

(Side note question:  Is it the baby's due date?  Or is it the mother's due date?  If you're a maternity care giver perhaps you can leave a comment below to help clarify.)

I spent some time with Kristin yesterday as she searched out a few last minute items.  Poor baby is so very pregnant now that we walk slowly, stand slowly, sit slowly, respond slowly...... well, you get the picture.  I say "we" because we all intuitively move at her pace in an effort to be supportive.

Thankfully, she's had none of the pregnancy difficulties so common for many.

Her biggest struggle has been with severe leg cramps.  Bananas and water have become her best friends in an effort to combat the cramps.  And Cody (the consummate pregnancy partner) has spent many middle-of-the-night-hours rubbing out those cramps.

They are the cutest couple.  He routinely calls her throughout the day, just to see how she's doing.  This pregnancy thing is new territory for Cody but he has risen to the challenge of learning and trying to understand all aspects.

They spent the whole of last Saturday in a birthing class.  His stories of what they learned, the videos they saw and how they processed it all had us roaring with laughter.

Yep, there's a reason God's best plan is for a husband and wife to bring children into the world together.  It's because we NEED one another!

In other news, I'm making serious strides toward the completion of my first book.  I've casually mentioned the idea of a book here and there over the past couple of years.  But I'm closer than ever before to it becoming reality.

I guess you could say I've been "pregnant" with this book for a long time, too.  Humans are pregnant with children for 9 months.  An elephant carries her young for almost 22 months.   I've heard stories of people carrying manuscripts close to their hearts for years before "giving birth."  I must be one of those.

Please pray with me that this will be completed soon.  I desperately want it to take the right shape.  I want this first book to have words of encouragement that will reach to many who need them.  I'm listening closely and really want to get it right.

Of course, I'm aware this isn't THE book (as a wise friend shared) it's A book.  I'm not responsible for producing the greatest book ever penned.  That job was covered quite well by the many co-authors who penned what continues to be the best seller of all time - the Bible.

No, my goal is much more modest.  I want to simply take the truth that life has worked into my heart and record it in an effective way; a way that encourages.  Then put it out there for others who will recognize themselves in the struggles and victories I describe. 

Which brings me to a great quote I heard just this morning.  The speaker was talking about our journey through life.  He talked of being right.  This was the statement that challenged my thinking, "It's not about being right.  It's about getting things right."

In other words, we too often insist that others recognize us as being right.  No matter what the topic of conversation.  No matter what the project.  No matter who we're dealing with or why - human nature in each of us longs to be affirmed as being the one who is "RIGHT!"

This speaker felt we should focus instead on getting things right.

Every married couple has times of disagreement.  When the arguing is over, what matters more? Who was right? Or who handled the disagreement in a right way?

Every building project must follow a plan.  When a hurricane comes through these parts, we want to know the builders didn't cut corners.  We want to know they built that structure the right way.

We don't care about the name of who was deemed right or wrong during project discussions. Constructing it the Right Way is what matters most.  Getting it right provides something that lasts through the storm.

I think you get the idea.

So my challenge today is this, ask yourself to honestly answer.  Which matters most to me?  Do I want to Be right?  Or do I want to Get it right?

BEING right adds value to our personal reputation.  GETTING it right adds value to other people.

Kristin and Cody are trying to get pregnancy and birthing right.  I'm trying to get publishing right.  We all hope to get relationships right.  When you turn it that way, being right takes second place.

Hmmmm.  A friend of mine often says, "Now you know that's right!"

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Stop by the comment box with your perspective.......

Friday, April 20, 2018

Lean on Me

I absolutely LOVE that my grandbabies are always wanting to help.  And as they develop their vocabulary skills, "I want to help you" most often comes out, "Ina Hope!"

I've written about this before but it just continues to fascinate me.  Such a perfect mistake, don't you think?  Exchanging the word help for hope.

This past Monday was family dinner night.  But because Frank and I have been hosting multiple church groups/dinners at our home recently, I put out the call for someone else to host this time.

Meagan and Nathan accepted the call.  So, I took the pork chops to their house and went on with my other responsibilities.  (Meagan does a great marinade and Nathan has become quite the GrillSmith.  Pun Totally Intended!)

When Frank and I pulled into their driveway later on Monday, we were met by two beautiful blonde haired children with huge hugs and sweet kisses.  I'd brought a couple of other things and Noah immediately offered to help us carry them inside.

Madi was right on his heels with "Ina hope too, Noni!"  (I want to help, too.)  Even if it's carrying my purse, I try to come up with something for her to help with at times like that.  Contributing builds character in children, doesn't it?

This little lady is a natural born leader.  She can also be a little bossy sometimes, especially with her cousin, Zach.  Her offers to help him are usually more of a statement than a request.  "No No, Zachie Pookie. I hope you!"  

Zach is only three weeks younger than Madi.  But she gave him a pet name as soon as she could talk.  It seems every southern mother gives her children pet names.  And Madi's little nickname, "Zachie Pookie" stuck.

Zachariah usually has one of two responses when Madison offers to hope him.  He walks away; which is NOT pleasing to the one so generously offering to help. Or he looks around briefly then gives in to exactly what Madison has directed.

I've even witnessed a couple of shoulder shugs and deep sighs of resignation.  Those two are more like twins than cousins.  And they are hysterical to watch!

This morning as Frank and I sat having coffee on the back porch, my heart got a little overwhelmed.

Our routine is to start each day with some quiet time.  Then, we try to run through our day's schedules so we each have a general idea of where the other will be.  That five minute exercise (so helpful most days) put my stomach in a knot this morning.  A few tears even breeched the dam.

Tears are rare for me, especially that early in the day.  So it caught Frank off guard.  He pulled me close, gave my hand a kiss and said, "Let's pray."

Best Help/Hope Ever!

After we prayed, he asked what he could do to help with my to do list.  He listened patiently and asked questions to clarify.  We developed a better game plan.  We worked to redirect my view. 

His offer to help began to renew my hope that all we Must do today, Can be done.

I wish I could tell you a beautiful scripture immediately came to my mind.  But today, it was the chorus of a song from my teen years instead:

"Lean on me!  When you're not strong and I'll be your friend.  I'll help you carry on. For it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need, somebody to lean on."

I laid my weary head over on the broad shoulder of my husband and whispered my gratitude.

We can't be the strong one every day, friends.  We must all take turns offering help; which then brings hope.

Who knew Madison Riley was such a SAGE at only three years of age?!

Friday, April 13, 2018

The View

I just finished writing a sermon I can hardly wait to preach this Sunday!

In fact, I'm so excited I would love to attach the entire message here for you to read it.  But alas,  I can't give it away today.  What would be the incentive for people to come on Sunday?

The title of my sermon is "The View" just like this post.  Only here, I'm taking a little different twist.

(It dawned on me just a moment ago that I've never invited you to hear one of my sermons but you can rather easily.  Go to click on the GGC Facebook page and you'll have access to our weekly sermons.

You'll have to scroll back to October to catch my most recent one.  Or just come back on Tuesday and they'll have the one from this Sunday posted.)

This week Frank and I made a quick trip up to north FL to visit my dad and his wife, Christeen.  We left Monday just as the sun was peeking over the horizon and drove the 7 hours to his home.  Then Wednesday, we drove back.

There was no agenda for this visit.  We didn't even do much of anything special.  It was all about time with Dad.  Stepping out of our hectic world and into his quieter one for a while.

We walked to the barn to feed his cows, ducks and kittens.  We checked out his progress on the garden he just planted. We rode in his Arctic Cat over hill and dale seeing where he hunts and fishes.  We even stopped for a couple of selfies near his favorite fishin' hole.

Let me not rush past the statement "...rode in his Arctic Cat..." because you need a good mental picture.  Dad lives on a huge tract of land owned by his family for decades.  Well over a hundred acres.

Because he knows almost every foot of that land from his 80 years of rambling over it, he needed a way to still access each corner.  So he bought himself an all terrain vehicle with two front seats positioned side by side.  A huge console in the center covers part of the engine.

Frank was on this little adventure with us, so guess where I was sitting.  Yep, I was precariously perched on the console like I was a fifteen year old girl instead of a 59 year old lady!

I kept trying new hand grip spots to secure me from toppling over on top of the fellas.  And the console started heating up well before we got back to the house.

(Please envision my eyes as wide as saucers and my bum quite warm!) 

But we made a memory!

In truth, it's a memory I'll hold dear for years to come.  Dad just driving us slowly over the fields and through the wooded areas. Easing his way through the boggy lowlands.  Pointing out vegetation and wildlife as they appeared before us.  Telling stories of hunting trips and fishing adventures.

We were seeing the land from his point of view and I was reminded why he loves it so much.

It was good therapy for Frank and I just to get out of town for 48 hours.  Somehow, your perspective shifts when you get away and shake up your normal routine a bit.

Even our ride on the Arctic Cat was good medicine.

There's more I'd love to share but I just got a call from my favorite fella with an invitation for lunch.  So I'm signing off to make sure he knows I view him as most important!

How about you?  Do you have a story of how your perspective has shifted at some point?  Or perhaps a tip about keeping your perspective right?  We'd love to hear about it in the comment section........

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Time to Plant

It's time to get your garden ready!

Yes, I'm aware that for many of you the timing of this statement makes it seem a bit ridiculous.  But bear with me.

Where I live, the temperatures are already topping 80 degrees on a daily basis.  I'm filling my lungs morning and evening with the final wafts of cool air.  By the end of next month it will be sauna time again.

So naturally, my mind is on planting already.

Life has been too busy for serious flower bedding.  But I did manage to throw a few bulbs in the ground and refresh my doorway planters.  Big win for me.

As I cleaned house yesterday preparing for company, I began to ponder the rhythms of planting and harvest.  Since I can't dig in the actual dirt right now, my mind turned to spiritual planting.  A couple of thoughts came to me rather clearly.

  • We seldom ever harvest in the timing we think is reasonable.  The time between planting a seed by faith and seeing fruit from that seed is almost ALWAYS longer than I expect.  

I heard a great line from a teaching this week.  "The farmer waits with knowledge."  Such an important concept for us, too.  Productive farmers know from experience - there will be results from all my planting efforts......if I'm patient.

He can't go out two days later, snatch the seed out of the ground and say, "See!  I knew it wouldn't work!"  It takes time.  Keep watering/cultivating your seed, dear friend.  It will yield a harvest.

  • In spiritual matters, we don't always reap from the field where we've planted.  But watch for it, your seedling of faith will produce fruit for you somewhere in your life.

I've gladly served as a mentor and invested heavily in the lives of many young women.  Some of those investments have been expensive for me financially, emotionally, or time wise.  And occasionally, I see no return for my investment from the one I've worked with.

But again, patience is key here, along with eyes to see.  

Recently, I've had the privilege of meeting with two ladies I should never have had access to under normal conditions.  They've spoken truth into my life and encouraged me to reach beyond where I've thought I could go.  I look at their lives and see possibility for my own life.  

And there's the return for my earlier investments.  The seeds I've faithfully planted in other young women have become a harvest for me from a totally different field.  

But if I hadn't planted, I wonder if I would have reaped these divine appointments that have provided much needed fruit for me.  Hmmm, something to ponder.

So, even if the ground around you is still frozen I maintain my call........."It's time to Plant!"  Find something/somewhere you can plant a seed (by faith) toward seeing the miracle you long for come to pass.  

Then start the tough work of waiting.

Believe that this seed, properly cultivated, will bring a harvest your way.  Patiently watch for the first signs of a seedling and celebrate, even if it took longer to sprout and came to you from a different field.  The miracle is still just as amazing!

One thing is for certain - no one ever harvested if they didn't plant.

It's Time to Plant!!

Monday, April 2, 2018

It's Winnable

Do you have a vice?

"Sheri, we just came through Lent!  We were supposed to give up our vices."

Yes, I'm aware.  But I have a story about a vice that I think will be encouraging.

Important Side Note:  I just looked up the definition for "vice" and found I was using it improperly.  Free Dictionary, "A practice or habit considered to be evil, degrading or immoral."  

I guess I was leaning more toward definition #3.  "A slight personal failing; foible.  An imperfection."   Whew!  Glad we cleared that up!

So, moving on.  The little imperfection to which I'm referring is that of playing solitaire on my phone.  It's a wonderfully mindless activity that doesn't allow my brain to wander around aimlessly whenever I take a much needed break.

I've shared with you before how I've put roadblocks up to keep this activity from stealing time.  I'm allowed a maximum of three short games in a row; taking no more than ten minutes.  No more than three times in a single day.

Believe it or not, I have a counter on my phone that keeps me accountable to this commitment.  So it really doesn't qualify for the #1 definition of vice from Free Dictionary.

Back to the point of the post.

I most often play the Medium difficulty games.  Once Frank taught me the rudiments of solitaire, I quickly discovered the Easy category didn't provide enough of a challenge.  The Hard category is definitely challenging but requires full attention, totally negating the purpose of mindless activity.

So Medium is juuussst right!  (Did you hear the voice of Goldilocks from the Three Bears?)

There's another issue also makes it attractive.  The attention-getting statement on my game goes like this: "Easy and Medium games are always winnable.  Hard games may or may not be winnable."

Having that one little tidbit of information has been a game changer for me.  Literally!

No matter how challenging the game may be, I know the computer that set it up has also created a strategy for winning the game.  There is no question about it.  This game CAN Be Won!

Consequently, I have never abandoned a single game in the four years I've been playing on this phone.  (The accountability counter I mentioned earlier can attest to this truth.)

Why abandon a game that can be won?

There is a little button entitled the "Undo" button.  It allows you to start over when a game gets perplexing.  Please understand, some games I've had to leave and come back to time and again.  A few, I've handed over to Frank asking for his expert help.  One had me stumped for almost a week.

There is also this ridiculous caution sign with an exclamation point that appears when you've run out of options for a game.  If you can't come up with a solution, you have to start tapping the undo button until every card has returned to its original state and begin again from the very beginning.

Either that or abandon the game.  And we've already established my response to the abandoning option.

When the caution sign pops up signaling no more available plays, I must make a choice.  It's humbling.  Sometimes annoying.  Often irritating.  But always I hear that little promise running through my head, "This game is winnable!"

So back I trudge to the starting line and try yet again.

I've come to look at that silly game as an example of life in general.  Often, we hit major snags along our journey.  Difficulties make it appear we have no available options for a good outcome in this situation.

But remember!  The constant promise we have is that the One who created us also sees a way out of our dilemma.  There is a viable solution if we just keep looking.

Some struggles can keep us stumped a long time.  Often we must seek out the help of a friend with more experience.   We may even have to trudge right back to the starting line and begin all over again in order to find success.  But it's worth the effort.

Don't allow darkness to convince you to abandon your intended goal.  This game of life is winnable.

A promise I often rehearse for myself is found in Jeremiah 29:11 which says in part,  "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for hope and a future." 

In layman's terms - it's winnable!

How about you?  Any lessons learned from your definition #3 vices?  We'd love to learn too - just leave a comment below.......


Saturday, March 31, 2018


SICK was not what I had planned for this day!

But it appears when you eat a taco salad that doesn't agree with you - At ALL - the choice is not yours.  Frank and I had a lovely al fresco lunch yesterday at a Mexican restaurant where we often eat.  The weather was perfect and we had the outdoor dining area all to ourselves.

About two hours later, my tummy started rumbling but I didn't have time to stop and deal with such minor discomfort.  We had rehearsal for the Tenebrae service starting at 5.  Frank needed me ready to walk everyone through their parts.

The rumbling became more insistent.  While Frank read through his last section, I slipped to the restroom and almost completely unloaded my lunch.  (All the while holding my cute little necklace out of the way, mind you!)

The nausea subsided and I thought that was the end of it.

Oh, no!  Not by a long shot. 

Thankfully, the whole point of a Tenebrae service is reflection.  People enter silently and exit silently.  Greeting, talking, hugging as we leave is discouraged.  Since that is one of my main roles, I was able to slip to the office bathroom.

I'll spare you the details of riding home with a trash can in my lap.  Cody and Kristin followed us to bring home my car.  Frank told them to stay outside!  We were pretty sure it was the taco salad but she only has five weeks left and couldn't risk a bug at this point.

Frank is without a doubt the best care-giver in the world.  He just senses what I need before asking.  Cold cloth.  Trash can.  Blanket warmed in the dryer. Hot tea.  Dry toast.

When I stumbled out of bed this morning, I was more than a little relieved to find he had decided to study here instead of going to the office as planned.  It's the little things, when you're sick.

He made my grocery run for me.  Our dining room was already set up for the flurry of excitement that will descend on us tomorrow evening.  And six little baskets are sitting in our guest room waiting for the grands.

As I mentioned earlier, our normal family sunrise service will be a Skype experience this year. Since I'm usually up by 4AM on Easter to prepare, it's a timely change.

Several things I wanted to make happen for tomorrow will have to be tabled for another year.  I've slept off and on almost the entire day.  Even now I know I won't be back to 100%.  This is an untimely sickness for sure!

But as I rested today, I reminded myself the most important elements are locked into place whether I'm able to assist or not.

The sun will rise tomorrow.  We will gather with our church family and celebrate Resurrection Day with great enthusiasm.  We'll remind ourselves that because of Easter, we have hope for our future.

Because of Easter, I know I'll see my sweet mama again some day.  Because of Easter, all the things in my life that seem to make no sense can be turned over to Christ.  He can explain it all to me or not, the choice lies with Him. 

He has a different perspective on my life and yours.  He sees what we can not.  The key is resting in the truth that He Does Know.

One of my favorite Easter songs is written in a lilting 6/8 time. Tomorrow our family will sing together.  The verse isn't well known so Noni will sing it but everyone joins in on the chorus:

"I serve a risen Savior He's in the world today.  I know that He is living whatever men may say.  I feel His hand of mercy I hear His voice of cheer.  And just the time I need Him, He's always near.  

He Lives! He Lives!  Christ Jesus lives today.  He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.  He Lives!  He Lives!  Salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives.  He lives within my heart!"

My prayer for you is that you'll experience the Savior in a wonderfully timely way this Easter season!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Significant Celebrating

Happy Easter, Everyone!!  And so begins my favorite week of each year.
  • Palm Sunday (Marking Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.)
  • Maundy Thursday (His last supper with his disciples)
  • Good Friday (The day Christ gave His life in exchange for ours)
  • Easter (RESURRECTION DAY!!)   
If you're a regular reader, you know that Frank and I are a bit extreme about significant holidays and the celebrating there of.  Mostly, because holidays serve as perfect teaching opportunities.

We used a fun video in service yesterday to explain Palm Sunday.  (The Skit Guys are our favorite.  They use humor to explain/teach/challenge the Church.)

This Wednesday, we'll share the traditional elements of the Passover Meal in place of regular bible study.  We have a minister who worships with a Jewish congregation coming to teach us all about the significance of each element.

On Friday, we'll have our first Tenebrae Service.  This is new for us; we just learned of it last year.  Tenebrae means "shadows."  This one hour service will be very somber; calling us to reflect on the sorrow that surely surrounded the death of Christ.

Please remember, the disciples were living the story in real time.  They hadn't read the ending.  They had No Idea that Resurrection Day was just around the corner.  The purpose of the Tenebrae Service is to help us identify with the depth of those emotions.

THEN (mental drum roll).................EASTER SUNDAY!!!

Frank, in full Biblical costume,  will be presenting a monologue as the disciple Peter.  I've willingly tolerated shaggy hair and a growing beard for several weeks now as he moves toward creating the characterization.  Wigs and fake beards just don't do the trick for him.

My favorite part of his presentation?  He'll sing a solo, "The Day He Wore My Crown."

Music was what first brought us together.  Frank has an amazing voice but he seldom ever does solos anymore.  I'm looking forward to hearing his rich baritone fill the rafters once again.

Our annual family sunrise service will morph yet again this year.  Six babies and two pregnant mommies means getting to one location all ready for church before the sun rises is a bit more challenging than it used to be.

So, at Nathan's suggestion, we're going techie.  We'll Skype!  Not quite sure how that's gonna work but we're gonna give it a try.

"Oh, Sheri!  Doesn't that make you sad?"  

Well, sure.  No change is comfortable at first.  But the important thing is that we're trying to make the connection and we're making Resurrection Day special for our young ones.  Easter is about an empty tomb.  A Risen Savior.  Hope for all people.  Not a chocolate bunny.

Traditions and breaking out of the mold impacts children.  We want desperately for Easter to be understood by them.

Before our Easter dinner, everyone will tell about a Resurrection Egg they'll find on their plate.  Special blessings will be read over each family.

Then comes the Egg Hunt in Noni and Papa's backyard!

At the writing of this post, I'm still not sure when Easter Dinner will actually take place.  We're looking at Saturday, Sunday and even Monday.  We're trying to co-ordinate multiple families, work schedules and the all important issue of - Nap Times!

The date is not as important as the doing.  I should have my own special song about flexibility.  :-)

Bottom line is this.  Easter is our most important day of celebration.  The message behind Easter is really quite simple:
  • We're all broken.  
  • We all need a Savior.  
Aren't you grateful for this wonderful season, too?  

I want to share another reason we're so big on Easter.  

In 1974, a teen-aged boy invited two of his friends to join him for church on Easter Sunday night.  The incentive was, they would all campout afterward.  So the boys went.  Both of his friends heard a clear Gospel message for the first time that night and accepted Christ as Savior.

One of those boys was my own dear husband!  Easter is Frank's spiritual birthday.

Most people are happy to go to church on Easter.  Be bold.  Don't go alone.  Pray this week and invite someone to join you.  You may be helping them toward the best decision of their lives, as well.

Happy Easter, Dear Friends!

(I'd love to hear about how you mark this wonderful holiday.  Your celebration ideas may spark a great new tradition for someone else.  Please share with us in the comment section.  Thanks!)  

Monday, March 19, 2018

First and Third

I'm aware that "first and third" is most commonly heard in musical discussions.  Or maybe with directions being given.  "It's on the corner of First and Third."

But for us, First and Third describes our current life.

Our First daughter (Kristin) is pregnant with her First child.  Our Third daughter (Meagan) is pregnant with her Third child.  And Joy (middle daughter with four children)  is keeping them both calm!

Last week, our "adopted" daughter Amanda flew down to spend a few days with the "Frisisters."  (That's friend and sister blended.)  She is also pregnant with her third little boy.

It's a joyous time for our clan.  Some days I do indeed feel like the most abundantly blessed person around.

Yesterday, we celebrated Kristin and Cody's little guy with a family and friends shower.  We held it at their home so everyone could see their nursery.  (Completed the day before, they used the shower as a push to make it happen.  Smart plan!)

About 30 ladies.....and Cody.....spent the afternoon ooohing and aaahing and saying "How Precious!"  Um, the ladies were saying all that, not Cody.  :-)

Paula (Cody's mom) and I hosted.  The sisters helped with games and serving.  Closest family and friends literally did shower them with love and good wishes and all things baby related.

Most of you will remember, Cody is an only child.  Parker Franklin McGhee will carry on the McGhee name.  As Cody's dad was an only son and Native American, this is a special honor.

It's also a great honor that Parker will carry Papa's name.  Franklin means freedom and Parker means GateKeeper.  So they often say Parker is the Keeper of Freedom.  Powerful, right?!

Someone commented that because Parker will be our seventh grandchild, this must not be quite as special for us.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Which of your own children could you do without?  Each unique, each holds a spot only they can fill.

When my sister was born, I was almost 7 and became concerned that my parents would only love the new baby and forget all about the older kid.  I went to my mom with my fear.  "When the new baby comes, you won't have as much love for me anymore."  That's what made sense to in my little mind. 
She pulled me up onto her lap and shared this bit of lifetime wisdom with me.  "When God blesses a family with more children, the love in your heart is multiplied; not divided.  And the multiplying simply means there's more love to go around for Everyone!"

Isn't that true?!

Parker Franklin McGhee is the first of the first and the seventh in the bigger line.  But he already holds a place in the hearts of Noni, Papa, his aunts, uncles and cousins that belongs only to him.  Just like the spot held by Meagan and Nathan's baby who is third of the third and eighth in the bigger line.  :-)

Zach, the three year old, proved this last week.  He was standing in front of Aunt KayKay and everyone was talking over his head.  He started patting her belly and saying, "Pahkur, ooh, ooh Pahkur."  He's looking forward to the arrival of his newest cousin.

If you could see how they all look out for one another and how tender the bigger ones are with the new comers you would see the multiplied love in action.

The bigger truth is this, scripture says our Heavenly Father knew each one of us intimately while we were begin knit in our mother's womb.   You and I are more than one more number in the lineup.  We each fill a special place in His heart.

Aren't we grateful that the love of the Heavenly Father for us is multiplied by each child born into the Kingdom through Salvation?

Wow, my little mama was so smart!  :-)

Post Script: 
It is with great joy that we share, Meagan and Nathan are expecting another little boy!!  We are all over-the-moon excited!  There will, of course, be another post about their fun reveal party and all that the loquacious siblings brought to the celebration.  

Our grandchild count will go from 3 boys 3 5 boys 3 girls, this summer!   Oh, but fret not - those three girls can Hold Their OWN - trust me!  :-) 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Perfectly Clear

"Whoawha Air!  Whoawha Air!!"

This quote is from our two year old grandson, Zach.  Bet you wouldn't in a million years guess what he was so excitedly saying.  Here's the background story.  I promise, it will make you laugh.

Earlier this week, Kristin and I went to Sam's club (a HUGE grocery warehouse) to restock some items for church.  Joy knew we were going and asked if she could meet us there.  We said sure.  Then Meagan decided she would join us, too.

Please remember that Joy nannies two extra babies and Meagan nannies one extra.  So Joy arrived first with Zach - 2; Tyce - 2; Ava - 9 months and Avery - 3 months.

I wasn't at the door to meet them but I heard that as soon as Joy brought them inside,  both boys were shocked by the immensity of the warehouse.  They began looking all around, pointing and loudly yelling, "Whoa!!  Yook!  Yook! (Look) Whoa!"

Que the smiling customers.

When we connected, I took charge of the shopping cart with the two bigger boys.  Meagan was delayed so Zach kept watching for her and his cousins around every corner. 

"Maymay?!"  He would look up at me with immense blue eyes, tilt his head slightly and turn pudgy little hands palms up.  All this I interpreted to say, "Dearest Grandmother, do you know where my Aunt Meagan might be hiding?"

You're probably wondering how in the world one could get all that from Maymay?  Trust me.  These littles know more than we give them credit for; we just have to learn their communication methods.

I know many of them but not all.  Hence, the story......

I shop in Sam's Club often, I even know the names of several workers. (Occupational habit.)  But it is indeed a massive place and I can easily get overwhelmed if I don't stay focused.

Pushing that cart with two active two year olds while trying to concentrate on the items I needed to locate was a comedy show in the making.  Believe me!

Finally, it seemed best that Noni should only focus on the precious cart cargo while Joy found her short list of items.  Then I would do my shopping.

So began my most fun trip to Sam's Club ever.

The boys - fascinated by all they were seeing - noticed a tall net secured above the 20' bank of diary doors.  "Yook, Noni!  Yook!"  Zach pointed and Tyce giggled.  "Backebauh!"  (Look, Noni.  Basketball.)

In a flash, this fifty-nine year old, 5'3" professionally dressed lady became the imaginary twin of Shaquille O'Neal.  I bounced my imaginary "backebauh" a few times then shot toward the netting.  We all three watched while it made its trek; then I started jumping and cheering, "WooHoo!"

Zach never hesitated.  He threw both hands into the air and yelled loudly, "Core!!"  (Score!)

Then began the real competition.  First, I grasped Zach's little hands, dribbled the bakebauh, then threw his arms over his head to make the shot the way I've seen his dad do so many times.

We watched for a moment then all three cheered as the invisible orb "disappeared" behind the netting.  Now, Tyce's turn.  Now, Noni again.  Back to Zach.

It made no difference that several people slowed and stared while passing us.  A few smiled.  The boys were loving it and so was Noni.

When the backebauh game was over, we journeyed on.  That's when we rounded another aisle and Zach went absolutely ballistic.

"Whoawah Air!  Noni, whoawah air!"  His stubby fingers were pointing, his legs were swinging, his bottom bouncing, his short arms waving. Blue eyes were electric.  Red kissy lips formed a perfect awestruck circle.

He was inviting me to celebrate this wondrous discovery with him.  Only one problem.  I had no idea what the child was saying!

"Whoawah Air!"  He kept pointing and repeating it; a bit more intensely now.  Each interpretation attempt was deemed a failure.  "No, Noni!  Whoawah Air!!"  This was getting urgent.

Finally, I spotted Joy standing beside a mountain built of oranges and apples.  I made a beeline for her as quickly as a grandmother in dress shoes can push an over-sized cart containing two little boys and heavy grocery supplies.

"WHAT is He Saying?!"  In my perplexed state, I may have said it a bit too loudly.  Joy jumped and turned to see who was coming at her.  "Tell Mommy!" I directed.

Zach twisted in his seat again pointing and calling out, "Whoawah Air!  Whoawah Air!"

Joy took one look in the direction he indicated then calmly responded, "Yes, that little boy over there has hair just like Noah's."  There were triplets in a cart we had passed.  All three had white blond hair just like Meagan's children, Noah and Madi.

Zach looked back at me, gave a short nod and said again for my benefit, "Whoawah Air."

Of course, he couldn't verbalize it, but his look clearly stated, "See?!  What I was saying was perfectly clear, Noni.  Why didn't you get it?"

I burst out laughing.

Thinking back on that moment of disconnect reminds me of how often I've misunderstood others, as well.  What someone is trying to say may be perfectly clear in their thinking but may not be what I hear at all.

This struggle can become especially difficult between husbands and wives or parents and teenagers. They desperately want us to understand what they're saying but we just can't seem to get it.

Frustrations quickly arise and feelings can be hurt all because we just aren't able to connect.

If you find yourself not understanding someone you love, may I encourage you to find a mediator who can help decipher your communication?  Who knows, you may also end up with a great story of encouragement.  Once the intent of the words your loved one is saying becomes perfectly clear, that is!


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Story of Passion and Purpose

February is traditionally the month of LOVE.

Valentines.  Roses.  Teddy Bears.  Chocolates.  Chunky Cherubs.  (Chunky because of the chocolates.)  Hearts.  Promises.  Love Songs and Longings.

Valentine's Day 1979 was when my mom first knew Frank was pursuing me in serious terms. Moms have a sixth sense that tells them things we don't know about ourselves.

My mother was especially gifted in this area!

She had driven down to visit me during Home-Coming week at my college.  She was such a good friend as well as a wonderful mom.  I had always been able to talk to her about absolutely anything.

We were walking toward my dorm from the parking lot when she asked, "What about this 'Frank' fella that you've been dating?  Is this getting serious?" 

"Oh, no," I assured her.  "We're just enjoying each other's company.  We have fun when we go out.  But it's really not all that serious at this point."

At that exact moment, we turned the hallway corner toward my room and stopped dead in our tracks.

My dorm room door was completely covered by a SIX FOOT TALL VALENTINE. 

A six foot roll of felt fabric hung from my doorframe and was covered from top to bottom with cupids and hearts of all sizes.  "BE MY VALENTINE" was stitched onto the fabric in red, 8" letters.  An adorable teddy bear sat jauntily in a heart pocket, center-stage.  On the floor in front of the monster greeting sat a bouquet of twelve long-stemmed roses and a giant heart box of chocolates.

I stood frozen; completely flabbergasted.  Speechless.

Mom stood beside me staring at the display and said, "Not that serious, huh?!"

Frank's roommate at the time returned some years ago and now serves as a professor at that same university.  In one of his lectures, he tells about the giant valentine that was literally the talk of the campus in 1979.

We often hear about it from various students who land at our church.  "Oh, YOU'RE the one who made the giant valentine that covered her door!!  Professor Crosby told us about you guys!  That was amazing!"

The topic of his lecture?  Passion and Purpose.

He tells the students that when Passion and Purpose combine in our lives,  the synergy created will help us overcome any obstacle - perceived or real.

He explains to the students (many of whom are also in the throes of searching for their life mate) that Frank felt he needed to work to win my heart.  He saw our relationship as a challenge requiring all his best efforts if he was to be successful in his quest.

Dr. Crosby recounts how Frank threw caution to the wind. Gathered materials.  Recruited help. Everyone from my best friend (who owned a sewing machine,) to the ladies at the local Hallmark store (who had the displays he needed.)

He put every resource, every penny, every creative skill at his disposal into making that valentine.  It mattered not how others would see him.  Embarrassment never entered his mind.  His reputation wasn't the focus, the object of his affection was all he could see.

He wasn't even able to be there to see my reaction because men weren't allowed into our dorm.  (Oh yeah, he had also convinced my proctor to help him tack the valentine to my door while no one was around.  Sandra was a romanticist at heart!)

Why go to such extremes if one isn't sure of the outcome?

Simply put, it was the combined effect of Passion and Purpose.

Here we are 38 years later.  Still pursuing each other.  Still knowing that although there are obstacles to the relationship we passionately want, we have to give it our best effort.   Because our purpose (a healthy marriage) is worth throwing caution to the wind.  Choosing to focus on one another, not on ourselves.

What is it in your life that you've identified as your purpose?  (Relationships?  Service?  A Project?)  Are you still passionate about that purpose?

If not, ask God to refresh your perspective.  Throw caution to the wind and get moving.  Recruit some help for pursuing what was, at one time, more important to you than your own reputation.

The outcome just may surprise you!

I'd love to hear about your favorite or most unusual Valentine.  Tell us in the comment section.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Add Value

Thank you for your patience with my minimal posting these past two weeks.

What I thought would be reflective time became a "Mini Time Tornado."  (Is there actually such a thing?  Not sure - but it gives you the picture, right?)

So, although my schedule is packed still (just like yours) I'm making myself sit down for thirty minutes to say "Hello!"  I'm so grateful that you continue to stop by Embrace the Grace even if I don't have a new post on that day.  Thanks Much!

Part of the "Mini Time Tornado" was because of a conference Frank and I were privileged to attend this week.  It Was Resplendent!!

There were training sessions going from early morning to well past what I consider bedtime.  2,500 people were all navigating the same hallways and buffet lines at the same time.  For many it was controlled chaos.

But Frank and I stood directly in front of the "firehose" they were using to share information.  (Figuratively, of course.)

When we were so saturated that our tired minds could no longer absorb anything, we kept facing that firehose and just let the truth wash over us.  It was truly an amazing conference.

My favorite phrase from the entire four days?  "Add Value!"  

Incredibly Simple.  Powerfully Profound.  It's a phrase that should apply to every living, breathing human being.

Add Value! 

It marches into dark places and brings light.  It soothes the broken-hearted with hope.  It whispers peace to the overwhelmed and offers a simple plan of action.

We cannot solve all the problems of this broken world.  I cannot change the circumstances of your life.  You cannot answer the questions of my heart.

But we can step into ANY situation today and.......Add Value!

Just try it.  I dare you.

Step into the coffee break room and ask yourself, "How can I Add Value to this conversation?"  

Look around at your co-workers and ask God how you can Add Value to them.

When your family gathers for dinner tonight, set the tone by determining to Add Value to each person sitting with you.

Feel free to use these encouragement starting phrases:
  • "I know you've had a tough day.  Thank you for........."
  • "If others could only recognize your gift for............"
  • "I really appreciate that you"
  • "If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have the blessing of.............."
  • "You've grown so much in the area of.............."

People may look at you a bit oddly at first.  But I can promise you, they will come back for more. 

This world is dying of thirst waiting for someone to share a cup of cool refreshment in the form of genuine encouragement.  Not flattery.  No one benefits when we just try to build egos.

No, I'm talking about taking a moment to look into the eyes of another person.  See their human-ness that is just like yours.  Then intentionally choose to Add Value to that person.

I'm learning in new ways about an age old truth - what I hold out to others, always comes back to me.  (Sowing and Reaping)  By day's end, YOU will be the one smiling and feeling a bit lighter.

I can hardly wait to hear your stories of Adding Value.................

Friday, February 9, 2018

Alpha and Omega

Spencer Matthew Schreck, our very first grandchild, turned 7 years old this week!

I can hardly believe we've been on this Journey of Joy as grandparents for seven whole years.  We celebrated the crown prince on Monday.

When they arrived at Noni and Papa's for dinner, he and the five other grands were ecstatic.  Parties and children just go together like Christmas and snow; Valentines and chocolate; Super Bowl and.......well, you get the idea.

Even the "Littles" (Zach and Madi are 2 1/2 now) came in singing "Happy Burtday, Penchur!" before they saw the first ballon or party favor.  Aunt Kristin came early to decorate my dining room in the requested super hero motif.

It seems Spencer is very taken with The Flash right now.  He and Flash both run really fast.  :-)

There was an added layer of joy because John and Linda (NY grandparents) joined us for the unwrapping of presents via Skype.  The senior Schrecks have done an amazing job of staying connected with all their grandchildren who are spread out over Florida and Missouri.

Grandma and Grandpa Schreck are extremely creative; not allowing distance to make them feel distant.  All our lives are enriched because of their diligent efforts to stay engaged.  (That'll preach in several ways, won't it?!)

After dinner, Frank and I sat back enjoying the controlled chaos.

Gift bags were lined up and the opening began.  Clothes.  Shoes.  A game.  As each gift was opened, Spencer stopped, made eye contact with the giver and thanked them, un-prompted. (John and Joy are great parents!)

Abby (now 5) had written a "cahd" for Spencer all on her own.  In her note, she told him he helped her and she loved him "vewy," "vewy" much.  Definitely a keeper.

There was even a mini scavenger hunt for clues to the Smith's gift.  Meagan had placed clues all over the house and even one on the playground outside.  The search party formed a little train that chugged along in tandem all over.  As each clue was located, the train halted and went silent long enough for Spencer to read it, getting direction for the next stop; then they were off again! Toot, Toot!

The drumroll moment happened at the very end.  Spencer's biggest hope was for a new bicycle and helmet.  (Schrecks are tall people who grow quickly in the early years and his former training wheel bike was just too small.)  The bigger bike was a joint gift from parents and both sets of grandparents.

The moment of revealing was absolutely PRECIOUS!

Joy placed the birthday boy in front of our fireplace facing the family and covered his eyes.  It was easy to see he was electric with anticipation.  (I'm grinning like something silly just remembering the sweet smile on his half covered face.)

Everyone kept calling out, "No Peeking!  No Peeking!" while John carefully rolled the new bike into position in front of him.  We made noise to cover the click of the kick stand.  Can you hear all the squealing and shushing?

"OPEN!" came the simultaneous command from Mom and Dad.

Huge blue eyes popped open and the number one fan of the Flash froze for a split second.  Then all the jumping and whooping and cheering one would expect from a seven year old boy began to erupt.

He put on the helmet right away and started moving the bike toward the front door for a test run.  Dad had to stop him because our driveway was full of aunt's and uncle's vehicles.

"Look, Papa!  NO Training Wheels!"  His face beamed with pride as Papa acknowledged how grown up our little guy has gotten.

The title of this post may seem a bit unrelated until I share with  you the other part of my week.  Before the party, I had just flown back in from doing the funeral of a DEAR friend in Missouri.  Martha and her husband Bob have been part of our lives for over 35 years.

Her passing was so painful.  A huge loss, indeed.  I'll write more about this amazing lady in my next post, I'm sure.

But for just a moment as I sat watching Spencer, I was reminded of the bookends of life.  Beginnings.  Endings.  How quickly it all passes.  How important it is that we make effort to stay connected; to capture moments of joy; to mark life as it happens.

Our Heavenly Father is referred to as Alpha and Omega; Beginning and End.  Solomon highlighted that there are times for everything.  To laugh, to cry.  To rejoice, to mourn.  To live, to die.

I guess my main thought for you today is this - Live while you can, dear friend.

Don't allow distance or discouragement or difficulty to keep you from experiencing the joy that can be squeezed from this moment in time.  The choice of focus is yours alone.

My friend, Martha, demonstrated this valuable lesson for me time and again.

Her decades-long struggle with severe rheumatoid arthritis did not stop her from living a full, exhilarating life.  Pictures at her memorial showed a woman who hiked and picnic-ed and swam and celebrated family.

She had to pace herself and work within the limitations of her debilitating pain.....but she kept going!  And without exception everyone gathered for the memorial remembered her infectious laughter, her kind heart, her generous spirit. 

I want to be a person who lives life while I can.  I don't want difficulty to rob me of what we were meant to enjoy.  I want to take off the training wheels and live today fully; making a difference for someone's tomorrow 

We're all living within the bookends called beginning and ending - Alpha and Omega.  Let's spend our time wisely, Dear Friends!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tough Love

Talking with Joy or Meagan on the phone these days guarantees the listener will end the call with a huge smile, some quiet chuckles and an appreciation for toddler moms who work from home.

Not only do they have the care of their own little broods (Joy-4 and Meagan-2), they also both care for two additional "littles" for added income.  Hectic is an understatement and that's on a normal day.

This week-end everyone has felt a little sick.  There have been a couple of fevers, some vomiting, a few colorful diapers and general lethargy for all involved.

I called Joy earlier to ask how things were at her house.  The following is how many of our conversations go:

Hi Sweetie, it's Mom.  Are you guys feeling better?

Hi, Mom!  Yes, we're doing fine.  Don't shove your brother.  Say you're sorry right now.  Yes, we're doing fine.  Son, why are you throwing those chips?  Don't waste those.  Can you pick those up for your brother?  Are you listening to me?!  Hi, Mom.  Wait.  Mom, I'll call you right back!  I think she's getting ready to throw up. to the bathroom!

I've heard some great lines while talking to these "Heroes of Home-Making!"

  • Come Here!  Why are you naked?
  • Did you just get that out of the trash?  No!  You can't have that!
  • Don't put her foot in your mouth!
  • Are you bleeding?  No?  Then you're okay, stop crying!
  • Get off the back of that couch - you'll fall and hurt yourself!
  • Get off that shelf - you'll fall and hurt yourself!
  • Get off that table - you'll fall and hurt yourself!
I well remember trying to have an intelligent conversation with someone while my own toddlers were underfoot.  My babies are now mommies themselves and it's so much fun being around them.  

It's also fun watching as they pass on the baton of faith to our grandchildren.  There is a scripture that has become one of my favorites for this season.  "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 3 John 1:4

Because these grand babies are more important than any other aspect of life, I sometimes want to step in and help.  I find myself offering suggestions that are actually strong requests wrapped in politeness.  It's hard not to say, "You should do this the way I did."

But during this season of life, it's more important that I stand back and serve as cheerleader for these young mommies.  It's tough to love this way but it's best.  

I read an article today that beautifully articulated my feelings.  I'm not sure who wrote it or I would give credit for this statement, "To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own outcomes."  


The writer went on to offer a quote of Amy Carmichael, "Choose if your loved ones are to know all that I [God] can be to them, or if they are to miss the best because they have you instead."

Double Ouch!!

It's the kind of quote I'll have to ponder for a long time to come.  But one that I also hope will become a part of the tapestry of my life story.  I want to offer this kind of love in all my relationships.

Each of us wants the best for those we love.  It's hard to think what we have to offer may not be the best for them.  But I encourage you to step back with me and take an honest evaluation after reading the quote a couple more times.  

Perhaps your prayer will sound a little like mine:
Lord, help me recognize when I'm struggling with poorly veiled issues of control.  Help me let go and simply enjoy the gift of having family and friends.  

So often the Heavenly Father gives me help in the form of Tough Love.  One thing is for certain, whatever the form, His love is always best!  


Friday, January 19, 2018

The Right Stuff

So, may I state the obvious?


I'm not sure who left the freezer door open between Canada and Michigan but can someone please close that thing???

And you're absolutely right - I have nothing to whine about.

At the time of this writing, we are experiencing our third week with evening temperatures below the freezing mark.  It's cold here but at least we're in the double digits. 

Most everyone I know is shoveling snow, missing work, avoiding ice, struggling just to keep their fingers and toes from falling off.  I know; I can't really complain.

Still, I'm sitting in front of my fake fireplace as often as possible.  Drinking hot tea by the gallon. Using the seat warmer in my car, daily.  Rotating my three winter outfits to match the only pair of boots I haven't ruined by holding my toes too close to the space heater under my desk.

I'm a WHIMP!  I admit it!

For all you dear readers who know you won't see the ground until April I have one thought, "Come On Down!!"  At least by the middle of next week we'll be getting close to our normal again.

You won't be able to swim in our lakes like the silly ads claim.  But you won't have to break ice cycles off your eyelashes either.   Whew!

Believe it or not, I HAVE done true winters.  Frank and I started our life journey in the mountains of NC.  All three girls were born in Asheville.  Most winters we had plenty of snow and even a few blizzards during our twelve years in that region.

But the girl who grew up in Florida has now fully re-acclimated to Florida.  I no longer own any of the right stuff for winter.  Yes, I own boots and a couple of turtlenecks.  But they're strictly ornamental.

I can't find my gloves and I only have two pair of real socks. My "coat" is designed to lightly cover me during rain storms; not keep me warm. And don't get me started on pajamas.

We've resorted to throwing a couple of blankets into the dryer just before we hop in bed each night.  Last night we broke the cardinal rule and allowed Gracie to sleep on the foot of the bed.  It was a benefit to us all three, believe me, and I don't think any of us moved all night long.

To top it off, we just happened to chose the coldest week in history for early prayer.  Consequently, Frank and I have been rolling out of bed between 4:30 and 5:00 each morning.  He's been at church by 5:45 to turn on some heat and lovely altar music.

As brave members of our congregation have gathered between 6-8 AM, their loving pastor has been right there to greet them.  Their whimpy pastor's wife, on the other hand, has huddled in the back right corner bundled under multiple layers and cradling a steaming cup of tea.

My aura has been less than welcoming, I guess.  Only a few folks ventured to wave at me or even make eye contact across the auditorium until the sun appeared each morning.

Obviously, I'm exaggerating things a bit.  Hopefully, it's helped you smile to think of someone totally unprepared and ill-equipped trying to cope with all this cold weather.

Truth is when we take time to gather the right tools and equip ourselves, most anything becomes more manageable.

Which is exactly why we set aside the first few days of each year to fast and pray together as a church.  We've discovered that this time quiets our hearts and refocuses our perspective.  We take time to equip ourselves for the year ahead; making whatever we may face much more manageable.

This scripture has become a key meditation point for me.  "Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance."  Jude 1:2  Another version says, "Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you."

I like both.

This short passage has become my key prayer for 2018.  Feel free to adopt it as your own, I think that's what Jude had in mind.  And as we lean in to hear the heart beat of Jesus, we quickly discover that He has mercy, peace and love enough to warm each of us.

Blessings!  Stay bundled up!

Do you have a scripture or favorite thought you're pondering for the year ahead?  Please share in the comment box, someone else may need it too.