Friday, May 31, 2019

What's the Difference?

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I happened up on a wonderful devotional thought during our time at Ocean Isle.  So here it is . . .

One of our favorite parts of the parsonage where we stay is the porch.  This is no ordinary porch.  It is a wide, wooden porch complete with rocking chairs and small tables to hold coffee mugs and devotional books.

The view is especially lovely.  The porch is a second-story spot overlooking a canal where fish jump, boats idle by along with swimmers, kayakers and the occasional longboat paddler.  (These people are ridiculously well toned and make me want to put down my chocolate donut in order to applaud!)

The porch is best enjoyed during the morning hours - which works just fine for Frank and I who are serious early birds.  We spent many quiet hours together this week.  Just sitting and sipping coffee or tea.  Sometimes talking, sometimes not. Mostly pondering.

As I sat looking out over the canal and the yard, I began to notice a few things.  The grass in the yard where we were staying was dry and brittle looking.  Mostly weeds and scraggly brush covered the entire area.  But the yard directly adjacent to ours looked like a snapshot straight out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The neighbor's grass was lush and a rich shade of emerald green.  Palm trees swayed majestically.  Flowering shrubs of all sorts added pops of color in carefully selected spots.  The entire yard was beautifully manicured and alive; a real treat for the eyes.

So, how was it that one yard looked like a snapshot from the Sahara desert and the other looked like a tropical paradise?  Inches from one another in distance but miles apart aesthetically.

What was the difference?

Water!  The one home owner has invested heavily in landscaping and wants to take care of the investment.  In order to keep all those lovely plants alive, water is needed.  Water every single day.  Water and lots of it.  Skipping even one week of water could have disastrous results.  Consistency is the simple key unlocking a beautiful difference evident to anyone with eyes.

While I sat on that porch observing the two yards, I had a realization.  Exactly like the two yards, we have to make consistent investments in our lives.  Time alone with Christ makes the difference for each of us. But we can't only invest occasionally.  Even making time to focus on God once a week won't be enough.   We grow best when the investment is daily.  Daily washing our minds with the Word of God allows for spiritual growth and rich beauty in our relationship.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Just a simple reminder of truth you already know.

What makes the difference?  A small daily choice which reaps huge, eternal benefits.

Hope you find it helpful!  Blessings!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Busy Month

I had no idea I had only posted once this entire month until this morning.

Please forgive my negligence!

However, I haven't been just sitting.  There was a week where Kristin and Cody went on vacation to celebrate the 60th birthday of Cody's sweet mom.  They even secured a house sitter so Frank and I weren't responsible for their dog.  Still, there were quite a few things to cover at church.  Kristin and Cody contribute a LOT to each of our services.

Then it was almost our turn to leave for a week.  But before we could leave, there was a three day conference to attend.  The ministers from across our state come together annually to do business and celebrate all God has accomplished the preceding twelve months.

Business happens during the day and then there are celebratory services each evening.  Add to that the luncheons and moments of grabbing coffee with friends we seldom get to see.  Lots of our friends go out after the services, too.  I've NEVER been that person.  Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that my eyes start closing at 9:30 PM no matter how hard I try to stay awake.  Sigh!

If you read often, you will know the next report borders on being monumental. It involves packing. 

On Saturday afternoon before we were to leave on Monday, I said to Frank, "Let's pack!"  And without any assistance from Kristin (mostly because she was in another state) I selected my wardrobe and packed for two completely different trips - the conference and our vacation.  It took the better part of the afternoon and I was exhausted when I finally plopped onto the couch but . . . I did it!

(Cue the theme song from all the Rocky movies!!  The one they play when he runs up the steps and jumps around triumphantly! That's exactly how I felt.)

Fold into all that preparing one other little factoid.  My own precious mother-in-law of 40 years was getting ready to mark her 85th trip around the sun.  Eighty-five years definitely merited more than just a little celebrating, so we jumped into action.

First, we contacted Frank's two brothers to set up a family dinner party for either the night we drove into town or the next.  Then we contacted the director of the community where Mom lives to see if we could hold a surprise party for her and her friends.  They were happy to accommodate us.

Finally, we contacted the birthday girl and asked if she would come with us to Ocean Isle Beach for Memorial Day weekend.  We've asked many times through the years and she always turned us down.  But this time was her 85th birthday and she agreed to join us! 

We left FL at 5:30 AM on Thursday.  (After attending the conference Monday-Wednesday.)  We made it to Dunn in time to change clothes and head to the restaurant.  Both brothers, their wives and all their children were able to come.  We laughed and sang and snapped pictures and laughed some more.  Mom Loved It!

On Friday, we told her Frank wanted to take her to lunch - just the two of them.  That was the cover so I could stay at her apartment and start setting up the party.  (We had already stashed the cake, snacks and decorations in the complex office.)  When mother and son returned from their lunch date, Frank escorted her into the main lobby where her friends yelled surprise and sang Happy Birthday just as if they were all high schoolers.  Mom burst into tears.

They had brought remembrances and cards which Mom carefully opened; holding up each one for all to see; then thanking them profusely.  Frank and I scurried around snapping more pictures; serving cake and chips and soda and whatever else they needed.

Finally, we were on our way to the beach. 

Frank and I come back to Ocean Isle, NC almost every year.  We pioneered a church here between 1993-1999.  The church has grown and the twelve people we started with has become a congregation of over 300 now.  We developed friendships we've maintained for over 20 years and the current pastor graciously invites us to preach for the church when we can. We also preach two additional services, one on the beach and one for the OIB Chapel.  The Chapel then allows us to stay in their "parsonage" for the week.  It makes for a great get-away!

It was such fun having Mom with us those few days.  We introduced her to friends and took her on a tour showing how much the area has changed since we lived here. Her two big requests were to eat fresh seafood and visit the local Wal-mart.  She needed to see if they sell anything different from the one where she shops.

Mom wanted to head back home on Monday so Frank's brother met them halfway.  While Frank took her home, I lounged in the most lazy, languid way I think I've ever lounged.  I did absolutely nothing productive except read and eat for over five hours.  It was resplendent!

Well, reading back over this I guess it makes sense that I've only posted twice this month.  I do have a great devotional thought from this week that I'll try to get on-line tomorrow.   Thanks for checking in.

What about you?  Will you be celebrating any graduations or birthdays?  How does your family mark big occasions?  We'd love to hear about it in the comment section below:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Scheduling for Success

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day to EVERY Lady!

Even if you haven't physically birthed children, I dare say you've mentored; encouraged; corrected; instructed; listened . . . all key elements in motherhood.  So, I applaud you today!

Our Mother's Day celebration will take place tomorrow.  (You know we're famous for pushing holidays to whatever day best suits all the adult calendars in our world.)  But I want to give you a peek behind the curtain of our hilarious weekend.

Many of you also read Smithellaneous, the blog written by my dear friend and co-grandmother, Becky Smith.  (Her son married our daughter almost eight years ago.  We now gladly share three, soon-to-be four, practically perfect grandchildren.  The grands all look like Becky's family but we KNOW Meagan birthed them.)

If you read both blogs, you know that the Smiths have had a weekend filled with sensational celebrating, sighing, smiling and even a bit of singing.  We all rejoiced in the college graduation of Sarah.  Nathan's younger sister is a walking testimony that God can, and does, intervene in our lives.  Sarah is a cancer survivor (in spite of her prognosis of 20% survival chance.)  A true miracle, according to the medical world.

Naturally, this Miracle Girl could not graduate from college without her precious brother and sister present.  So, plans began being formulated weeks ago for Meagan and Nathan to fly up to the graduation - WITHOUT children.  (Do you hear the music quietly opening in the background?)

The Senior Smiths graciously provided the air transportation.  All the arrangements providing for three little human beings (who love their own schedules and own beds) to successfully be without either for five days, rested on Meagan and Nathan.   (Dramatic music builds slightly.)

Thankfully, all three of my girls understand lists and scheduling and do not despise either.  Please be reminded that Joy has four children ages 8, 6, 4 and 2.  She works as a nanny for two more children ages 4 and 2.  Kristin has Parker who just turned 1.  Meagan cares for him each day (along with her three who are 5, 4 and 10 months) while Kristin works.  I remind you of all this information because it will help your frame of reference as we move forward.

Meagan and Nathan carefully plotted out the schedule for the days they would be away.  They packed clothes.  Meagan shopped for groceries so her children would have foods they especially enjoy.  They organized the most comprehensive childcare chart of all time.  Then they got into their sedan at 3AM on Friday and drove to the airport; never once looking back.  (Key change in music to heighten anticipation.)

Noni and Papa went into action beginning at 4AM with the first bottle for Grayson.  Madi and Noah found their way to our bed around 4:30.  "Noni," Madi gazed at me with a totally flat expression. "We can't see the sun so Mama always says we have to go back to sleep but Noah won't let me sleep." 

Papa and I threw back the covers on our kingsize bed and invited both babies to crawl in beside us.  We soon realized a kingsize bed is not big enough for two adults and two squirmy, sharp-elbowed little people.  We left it with the boys and I carried Madi back to the air mattress in the guest room.  She fell asleep just before Grayson woke again.  Right after his diaper change and bottle, it was time to get Noah ready for school.  And that was the first three hours of our five-day adventure.  (Did you hear the full-on musical transition to Flight of the Bumblebee?)

It had been agreed on that Joy and John would take the lion's share of time with the Smith siblings as children do tend to stay calmer with their own tribe around them.  Wanting to give them a break before it really got intense, we covered lunch.  That sounds simple enough until you process that it meant taking five small people (ages 10 months to five years) to a ridiculously crowded Chick-Fila where they gladly eat real chicken and play on the playground.

  • We had to park on the other side of the world!  So, Noni took the girls and Grayson . . . daring either of the girls to let go of my hand during our treacherous navigation of hungry drivers trying to get to the drive-through window.  We arrived safely inside where I stepped right into line to order.
  • Papa wrangled the two lively boys and bags of additional periphenalia across the parking lot.  His task was to locate a table where we could all sit together.  He waited patiently for a family to vacate one and as he moved toward it, a lady loudly protested.  She wanted the table!  My southern gentleman husband couldn't fathom me standing to feed all those babies . . . so he ignored her objection and occupied the only open table anyway.  Good Man!
  • I managed to order two sandwiches, thirty chicken nuggets, accompanying fries and two large sprites to be divided into the sippy cups my daughters provided.  Grayson and I moved to the table of dispute.  (The girls had already joined Papa and the boys on the playground.)
  • Papa reported breaking up only one fight while we waited for the food.  Once it was delivered, we stayed very calm for the disbursement phase but found ourselves saying the strangest things like, "Boys, get down out of the window!"  "Eeeww, no!  Don't eat that, it already dropped on your chair."  "Get your finger out of your nose, Sweetheart."  "Is he choking or laughing?"  "Don't shove your cousin's head down like that."  "Sauce is for the nuggets not your fingers."  
  • Finally, it seemed everyone had taken in some measure of nourishment.  Let's face it, this was about giving Joy a break.  These kids weren't going to starve if they didn't eat all thirty nuggets and accompanying fries.  
  • We cleaned the disputed table; located socks and shoes; collected peripheral bags and meal leftovers.  Papa bought ice cream to be given out after naps.  (Yes, it was bribery.  I have no shame!) That's when we made the treacherous trek back across the parking lot.  We were separated for a time but rendevous'd at the van just before the rain could start.
We safely delivered all five Smith and Schreck Littles back to Joy's just in time for naps.  Papa and Noni wasted no time kissing everyone good-bye then "skeedadling" back to our own silent, little abode.  We promptly climbed into our king size bed and took a much deserved nap of our own.

We offered to help with bath time on Saturday night, as well.  Oh my, what a hysterical couple of hours THAT was! Kristin had to miss one of her scheduled times as Parker decided to surprise them with upchucking his bottle all over her mother's day outfit.  So, we switched out once more.

Meagan and Nathan will be on their way home shortly.  Their flight doesn't arrive in Orlando until almost 11PM. (The scheduling called for a sitter who could stay the night with them.)  So later tonight, they will come home to tiny faces sleeping peacefully in their own beds.   Tomorrow morning, they will be back on track and we won't do this again until Smith baby #4 is born in September.

Bottom line, the scheduling worked!  Sarah was celebrated royally.  Meagan and Nathan had a little time to focus on just themselves before becoming a family of six.  Their three were reminded how much they are loved by all their extended family.  And we got a few more snuggles while they're still small enough to willingly share them.  

I call it a SUCCESS all the way around!

How about you?  What has to happen in order for you to travel?  Are you a "schedule lover" or a "free flow" kind of planner?  We'd love to read your comments in the section below . . .