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!