Thursday, January 31, 2019

Seldom As It Seems

Can you believe we're wrapping up the first month of 2019?!

I've been looking forward to this year with great anticipation for several reasons.  So, today I'm in shock that an entire month has passed already.

In looking over my calendar once again and shaking my head in disbelief, I was suddenly struck with this truth:  Life is SELDOM as it Seems.  And trust me, that's true for every human being.

For example, my calendar preference.  I still prefer a hard copy format with a single square for each day.   I know.  I know!  On-line linking and sinking is THE way to go.  My little black calendar that travels with me everywhere is an antiquated relic.  But it's what works best for me.

I have stepped into the 21st century with at least one foot.  I've exchanged my rolodex for a directory IN my phone.  I've learned to text.  I appreciate the many methods of connectedness afforded by my I-Phone. I can even Facetime my grandchildren.  But still I cling to the one old-fashioned office element I most love . . . my slimline, At-A-Glance calendar. 

If we were sitting in an airport and you happened to notice my MacBook Air computer, you might conclude I'm very tech-savvy.  However, those who really know me understand nothing could be farther from the truth.

This computer was a gift.  I work across the hall from a patient son-in-law who set it up for me and then slowly explained each pretty icon and it's function.  I live with a patient husband who can help me find my way back to the page of lovely icons when I lose my way while working at home. 

It seems like I should be able to accomplish much more with this state of the art piece of equipment than I actually can.  Life is Seldom as it Seems.

Another example can be found in pictures.  I have many friends whose pictures make them appear to be flawlessly beautiful, living magical lives and working completely care-free jobs.  But for those of us who know them well, we also see the price of a smile offered in spite of serious pain and disappointment.

I've had a fascination with beautiful front doors ever since I was a child.  Mom told me (as an adult) how I would comment routinely on the many lovely doors I would see as she and I drove around my hometown of Pensacola, FL.  She must have become concerned that my vivd imagination was creating an unrealistic world all associated with magnificent front doors. 

So one day she tried to bring correction.  We were driving along downtown when I said excitedly, "Look, Mama! That door is absolutely Beautiful!" 

Her response was sharp; intense even, "Sheri, there's sorrow behind those doors!" 

It was such an odd, out of place statement that I laughed out loud.  "What in the world do you mean, Mom?" 

Her timing was a little off and her declaration a bit extreme but she had her reasons.  Mom wanted me to understand the simple truth I'm sharing with you today:  Life is Seldom as it Seems. . . for anyone! 
Maybe I'm writing to someone today who has been wondering why everyone else is living a life of near perfection while your own life seems such a mess.  You scroll through social media, listen to friends talking or read blog after blog and think, "When will my situation get better?"

While I can't answer that question, I can assure you Life is Seldom as it Seems for any of those "Perfect Life People," either.  Take time to get to know them better.  Listen as they talk, really listen.  Slow down long enough to look beneath the surface.  I'm pretty sure you'll discover more to the story than you knew.

And when we know one another better, it makes us kinder toward one another.  When we stop complaining about our own situation long enough to listen to someone else's story, we suddenly find compassion we didn't know we had.

I once read an illustration about perspective and complaining.  It went like this:

"After patiently listening to them all, the Wise Man helped everyone pack their personal troubles into large see-through bags.  Then each person in the group brought their bag to the circle in the center of the room.  Some bags were small and were easily delivered to the circle.  Other people had to have assistance in dragging their massive bag of troubles to the center of the room.  When they had all been collected, the Wise Man gave them these instructions, 'Walk slowly around the circle.  Take a good look at each bag and the troubles contained in it.  Once you've carefully looked at each bag, you are to choose the one you wish to take as yours.'  The people moved hesitantly toward the circle following the instructions of the Wise Man.  Quietly and without fanfare, each one reached for their own, original bag.  After looking at what the others were coping with, their own bag of troubles seemed like much less of a problem than they had before."

Dear Friend, Life is Seldom as it Seems.  Perhaps that little mantra will be a help for you this year. 

Blessings!  And please stay warm!!

What about you?  Have you ever been surprised to discover the REAL story behind a perfect life?  Do you have a favorite saying that helps you with perspective?  We'd love to hear about it. . .


Monday, January 28, 2019

Joyful! Joyful!

I have such JOYFUL news to share today.....

Meagan and Nathan are having another precious baby!!  Yes, that makes Four for the Smiths.

Madi (3 1/2) and Noah (5) are over the moon excited!  Grayson (6mos.) has no idea what's going on.  The brave parents are just now coming out of their shock but they're wrapping their heads around it.

The news had to be shared with grandparents here and in NC via video call this time.  They got us on the phone with the premise that Nathan had gotten one more Christmas gift for Meagan . . . something new for their house.  Aren't they clever?!

Of course, we were surprised as well.  But every life entrusted to us is a gift from God, isn't it?  This newest blessing will bring our number of grands to Nine.  We are so grateful!

Some of you will remember that Meagan's pregnancy with Grayson had its difficult points.  She was in the hospital multiple times before he was born.  But someone told me yesterday that the hardest pregnancies are often the first and third.  So, we're praying and believing that God will give Meagan the strength she needs for baby four.

We're proud of Nathan and Meagan for how they protect their marriage; parent their little tribe and find ways to serve Christ.  They've mentioned several times how thankful they are to live near family so they'll have help.  There is much to celebrate.

In other news,  Frank and I are under the 30-day mark for our trip to Israel.  We are looking forward to this adventure with great anticipation.  I mentioned last year that we would be leading a group this time. 

Our group is small but all are thrilled to be going to the Holy Land.   One young lady will fly in from Ohio to join us.  On Wednesday, Feb. 20th at 5 AM we'll gather 10 brave souls and leave Winter Haven.  We'll drive to Miami and board a plane; enjoying a direct flight to Tel Aviv.  Can you hear the joy bubbling in my heart?!

One couple on our tour visited Israel in 1983.  Because there have been so many new discoveries since then, they feel like they're going to a brand new place.  Most in our group are viewing this as a pilgrimage of sorts.  We've been reading through the Gospels together and meeting to build anticipation.

Frank and I met with our travel company on Friday to pick up the tickets and finish up final business.  (Imagine Tours and Travels out of Lakeland, FL has been a great company to work with.  Give them a call if you're planning something big for overseas.)

Well, I guess that's enough news for me to share today.  I hope you're all finding ways to stay warm and entertained during this season of Deep Freeze.  Believe it or not, Frank and I just learned that we enjoy playing Yahtzee together.  Who Knew?!


We'd love to hear your story of surprising news.  Be sure to stop by the comment section below. . . 


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Finally Beginning

How is it possible that we're in the third week of 2019 - ALREADY?!

I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start.  Don't you just love fresh beginnings?  I find such comfort in the reminder from Lamentations that God's mercies are new every morning.  (He must be very much a fan of new beginnings.)

We've been blessed to start this year off with our dear friends from England, the Parsons.  We were delighted to spend two weeks with them last September.  That's when Frank and I were privileged to minister for the St. Austell Baptist Church in Cornwall.  Such a dear congregation and now our new friends.

Of course, we've been close with the Parsons for over 20 years now.  They were the pastors first used by God to encourage us to travel as evangelists.  What started out as a simple, one month missions assignment in England blossomed into 6 years of ministry taking us all over the U.S. and a few other foreign countries.

Three teenaged daughters, a mom a dad and all those SHOES!  A Resplendent Season, Indeed! We were once interviewed by a reporter with the BBC.  Because we sang together as a family, he introduced us as "The Hawleys Von Trapp!"

2019 will be another adventure for us with our own congregation here in Florida.  We've spent the past six months preparing for a new season as a church family.  For over a decade, we've focused on providing numerous events/outreaches each year for our congregation and community.  But halfway through last year, we felt this would be a time to pause from those activities.

We spent a lot of time in prayer and in talking with our other leaders.  After much consideration, it was determined this truly was the direction for Garden Grove Church.  So we've suspended all events outside our Sunday and Wednesday services/classes.  We chose the word PURSUE as our key.  We're Pursuing God; Pursuing One Another; Pursuing Our Neighbors.

All our preaching and teaching are focused on discipleship and personally growing closer to God.  We're urging our own church family to pursue relationship; make an effort to meet someone new.  (Get to know the people they smile at every Sunday but have no clue what their name might be.)  The third element is to pursue those around us who are far from God.

It sounds basic.  Simplistic.  But the change has been major for us all.

We're accustomed to planning and executing on a bi-weekly basis.  This business of focusing solely on discipleship and relationship-building has required a shift of thinking as well as action.  However, we're already seeing good fruit from our efforts.  Obedience ALWAYS brings reward.  Even if we don't fully see where we're going, following the whispers of Heaven is the best way to walk.

Today would have been my mom's 82nd birthday.  I miss her in so many ways after a decade of being without her.  I'm sure I always will.  But then I also think how excited she would be to hear about the new direction our church is taking.  Mom loved new beginnings.  Maybe that's why her oldest daughter finds delight in them as well.

Blessings to you all!