Thursday, March 26, 2020

One Little Step

What an absolutely CRAZY time we find ourselves experiencing.  Right?!  The emotional pressure (no matter what type work you normally do) is extreme.  Every decision feels bigger than life and harder than ever before.  Some people find themselves frozen in place; totally overwhelmed with all the adjustments needed.

So, I wanted to share with you some pictures of our little people.  Hopefully their smiles will give you some simple, joyful thoughts for focusing on today.  For example, this trio of cutie-pies.  Now why do you suppose Walmart offered these little dresses in Florida instead of in Michigan?

'Orange' you glad to see me?
What about this adorable diva?  Ava will turn three this summer and she already has all the personality that can be packed into one tiny human.  She came running in my office last week, gave me a big hug, flashed an angelic smile and said, "Noni, I have a mint?"  You know I gave it to her.

Ava Quinn, Personality Plus

Ava, Abby Spencer and Zach are staying with Noni and Papa this week.  Joy and John had planned a massive home improvement project for Spring Break which would include wall removal, paint, new flooring and all the dust that goes with such.

Their plan was perfect.  Weeks ago, John lined up men at church to help at different stages.  His dad and grandad were flying down from New York.  Together, they would easily knock it out in one week.  Frank and I would be in El Salvador on a missions trip so the Schrecks would house-sit for us.  No Fumes.  No Mess.  No Problem.

All that was before Covid 19 came onto the scene.  Coronavirus took all their well thought out plans and threw them to the wind.  No flights.  No missions trip.  No help available.  Pull the plug, right?One small problem - they had already knocked out the wall and ripped up the flooring.  No where to go but forward.  So forward we went.

Frank has been filling in when able, helping John as best he can.  Joy and I are holding down the fort trying our best to think of fun activities that don't involve technology.  One afternoon, we even raked leaves.

Noah, Spencer and Zach

The kids did their best to make that time entertaining.  Spencer and Abby lamented the fact that there was no representative of Guiness' World Records to see the largest leaf pile in history.  They made "leaf angels," the best substitute in FL for snow angels.  They raced to see who could bag faster and gave instruction to the younger ones.  The other side of the yard still needs some work but a lovely time was had by all.

Parker McGhee, AKA "Gangsta"

It seems Parker has taken up rap singing, during this time of self-entertainment.  We'll have to wait and see if he has the king of talent that can propel him beyond singing for his family in their living room.  Based on the "cuteness" factor, we expect ticket sales to go through the roof!

Four Generations: Mother, Son, Mother, Son
The youngest little Smith is Andrew Ryder.  We can hardly believe he's already sitting up, smiling, responding to his name and all the other things a baby usually does.  What a treasured picture this is for us.  I especially love that Mom Hawley is looking over at her own son. Baby boys soon become grown men with families of their own.  Life moves very quickly, friends.  We should all live accordingly.

As pastors, we've had to try and think of new ways to stay connected with our church family.  Kristin and I spent an afternoon creating a chart for phone connection.  Every family is connected to one of our many capable leaders.  The entire congregation can be contacted within a matter of minutes should information need to go out or should plans change.  (We also use email and Facebook but nothing beats the sound of a familiar voice asking how you're doing.)

We changed our mid-week dinner to a "Drive-Thru" and provided a packet with sermon notes for Sunday's live stream.  

We also offered prayer
This was our first attempt to live-stream our church service.  Our tech team did an amazing job morphing in order to accommodate our needs.  We had a full worship team, an object lesson for children and a great sermon of comfort.  This is our family worshipping together in a new way.  (Yes, we told them to move back from the television right after snapping this.)

"New Sunday Service"
(You can join us by going to Garden Grove Church on Facebook.  Wednesdays are at 6PM and Sundays are at 10AM.)

Laughter is vitally important for us all.  So, last week Frank and I enjoyed a lovely time with friends, Gene and Carol Kent.  Because here in Florida we're experiencing some shortages, we took a little gift for them.  

Yes, we DID gift them toilet paper

I'm trusting at least one of these made you smile.  Or maybe even laugh out loud.

A little laughter is good medicine in times of uncertainty.  I think anxiety, tension and fear are fueled by that one word, uncertainty.  Since the introduction of coronavirus just weeks ago, we've all found ourselves with more questions than answers.  And such a high level of uncertainty naturally creates negative feelings.  They can even cause us to freeze in our tracks.

My word of encouragement for you is this: when life seems to be out of control (like now) it's the little steps that matter most.  We can't afford to stay frozen by fear.  And it often takes only one little step forward to break out of that grip.  Let me encourage you - take one step, today.  Don't try to grapple with ALL that is going on, just make one small change.

We can actually add to the struggle when we expect too much of ourselves.  I've seen the list many friends are touting for this time of self-isolation:
  • Clean and sanitize all cupboards, cabinets and closets.  
  • Read all those books stacked beside my nightstand.
  • Write a book!
  • Write a letter to every relative I've ever known.
  • Train my children in all areas of social etiquette.  
Dear friends, please give yourself a break!  Just for today, you might want to choose an activity from this list instead:
  • Turn off the television.  
  • Step outside and get a deep breath of fresh air.  
  • Send a text.  
  • Take a nap.
  • Remember a funny joke and let yourself laugh.
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Light a candle and read a devotional.
Then tell yourself, "This is precisely what I need to be doing at this moment.  It's the one little thing I've chosen."  Then allow yourself to enjoy the moment.  It truly is the little steps that can break the grip of fear and remind us, we serve a BIG God who hasn't forgotten about us at all.  

With that said, Grayson Smith asked if he could be the one to sign off today -

"See ya later, alligator!"

What is one little step you plan to take today?  Would you please share it in the comment section?  Your comment may encourage a wave of peace flooding the hearts of other readers.  Thank You!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Focusing on Peace

In my living room, we have a large sign with these letters: P.E.A.C.E.

You don't have to read many of these blogs to quickly understand, I Love Words!  But I especially love words that have significance.  So I have quite a few signs scattered around my house with sayings, quotes and single words for impact.

The sign with PEACE is strategically positioned on a self right above our TV.  As I sit writing this post, I have only to glance up in order to be reminded.  PEACE is as near as my focus. 

This week, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus to be a pandemic, having impacted the entire world.  We are experiencing some unprecedented actions on the part of our government leaders as well as local officials. 

For Frank and I, this week has brought a lot of tension due to big decisions that needed to be made rather quickly based on less than perfect information.  Fortunately, we're part of a Great team that worked alongside us in making those decisions.

One of the most disappointing decisions was to postpone our upcoming trip to El Salvador.  A team of fifteen was scheduled to depart next Saturday. We have been going there for eight years.  We take teams and supplies for the purpose of doing humanitarian work. 

Working with a local church, we've helped build a vocational center and supplied dozens of sewing machines to be used by the women training there.  There is also a weekly feeding program where children come to find a healthy meal and real encouragement.  We've provided outreach materials for two schools and scores of individuals in the remote mountain area.

A part of our hearts stay behind every time we visit this beautiful place.  We even have a young lady from our church who has given two years of her life to helping the people there full time.  So, we spent many hours anguishing over whether or not we should go.  Our final decision was confirmed when the president of El Salvador closed their borders to all foreign visitors. 

We've met with medical professionals in our area searching out the most accurate information to share with our own church family.  We've also had to determine how much of our regular schedule to maintain.  (This church is always doing something!)

In the end, we realized the best plan for us was to focus on Faith, not Fear.  To be diligent with using common sense.  Wash your hands.  Rest.  Sanitize.  Remain calm.  And pray for those being directly impacted.

This morning I read a great idea posted by a friend who currently lives in central Europe.  "Every time you watch a news report, follow it up by reading a Psalm from the Bible."  What a great practice!  Stay informed but also stay encouraged.  What good does it do us to keep our bodies healthy if our souls are sick with fear?

There are too many wonderful promises in God's word to list here.  But Psalm 91 is a powerful,  promise-filled message to each of us.  "I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."  

The important thing is for us to look up and choose to focus on the P.E.A.C.E. available.