Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Grandma Miller's Purse

Did your grandmother have a magical purse, too? My Grandma Miller certainly did and how thankful I am! Here is a picture of the lady I absolutely adored: Grandma Miller and her dog, Kissy.

My mom's mother attended the same church we did on the east side of Pensacola. I grew up during the era when children attended all three weekly services: Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. We had never heard of "children's church." If the service was quiet, so were we. If the preacher got loud, so did we. If the sermon went long, we slept on the pew. 

Flannelgraph stories and songs that interested children were reserved for Sunday School, the hour before Sunday morning service. Otherwise, we operated on the premise that children were to be seen and not heard. 

Mom told the following story many times. It seems one Sunday night, my grandfather (no longer married to grandma) had come to visit our church. He asked if I could sit with him and his new wife. (Those two sentences speak of an entirely different post. I won't be dealing with that here. LOL) 

 Halfway through the pastor's first point, my three year old self must have gotten offended by something Grandpa said or did. Without reason or explanation, I stuck out my lips, crossed my arms resolvedly and stomped my black patent leather shoes right across the front of the church to go sit with Mama. 

 She and my dad were mortified but everyone else found it adorable so I dodged retribution - that time. But there were other Sunday nights that were incredibly long and for a little girl and incredibly boring. During those services, I would get ancy, probably get too loud and refuse to sit still. Those evenings ended with me taking the long walk of shame. 

 Mom and I would have to walk all the way back down the aisle while everyone stared at disobedient little Sheri knowing full well that Mom was taking me to the basement where she would discipline me sternly then return me to our pew. Not a great experience, I assure you! 

Enter Grandma Miller and the magical purse. My grandma, while not educated past fourth grade, had always worked some type of job to support herself. She regaled me with stories of leaving the family farm and moving to the big city of Indianapolis when she was just seventeen years old. 

Grandma started out in 1919 as a waitress in an elegant Greek restaurant right downtown. I guess that's where she determined to never live in complete poverty again. She went on to become a business woman, working beside her husband to run a tourist court (early version of a hotel) for many years. When he abandoned her, she transformed the business into small apartments and rented those by the month. So resourceful! 

I well remember Grandma's collection of shoes and purses. She stored them carefully in a cedar chifferobe which now sits in my office/guest room. The shoes remained in their original boxes and were stacked neatly. The matching purses were placed individually in dust envelopes for protection and stored on top of the chiffarobe. 

Sounds a bit prim and proper as I describe them here. But oh the wonders those purses would hold when taken down and prepared for use at church. If it had only been Grandma, each purse would have been restricted to carrying tissues, her glasses case, car keys, a black Papermate ballpoint pen and a small pad for taking notes. 

But Grandma hated seeing me take the walk of shame. So she devised a plan. Every Sunday she would fill her magical handbag with items that could help any child stay entertained through even the longest of services. 

There was the Papermate pen that I was allowed to click but only when the pastor raised his voice. Grandma and I would exchange knowing smiles of satisfaction if I managed to get in three or four clicks. There was the note paper that became my personal sketch pad along with the cutest tiny pencils carefully sharpened for my use. 

Grandma also stocked the purse with food. Cheese crackers with peanut butter seemed to be her favorite. But sometimes she would select the Nekot cookies and peanut butter combo instead. Oh, so delectable. Ever the wise grandma, I would then be given a single breath mint, Certs with the gold foil wrapper. This was to cover up any evidence of snacking in church which would have been frowned upon by my mom and dad. 

This picture shows me with Grandma and Mama my first Christmas home from college. How I loved these women!
I had to smile recently when Zach asked me if he could have a mint. Since my grandbabies were old enough to handle one without choking, I've kept my own purse stocked. Madi's favorite flavor has been "wintourgween" aka wintergreen. Ava has made clear she prefers "spehramint" aka spearmint. 

At first, I would ask for a hug or kiss. Now I just hand them over for a please and thank you. I guess Spencer has gotten too old for the mint game so Zach asked for two. "One for me and one for Brudder." 

My takeaway is this, everyone should have someone in their life who loves them unconditionally. 

I'm so thankful our girls and sons have taken on the disciplining of our perfect grandchildren and have left the spoiling to us. What a Gift! 

Will my grandchildren remember Noni's purse as "magical"? Probably not. But my hope is that they will know they were loved fully and unconditionally. And hopefully, they'll remember a time or two that we ran interference for them, as well. 

How about you? Do you have fond memories of a grandparent sparing you the "walk of shame" at any point? Did they spoil you? Did your grandparents live far away? We'd love to hear a story from you in the comment section. Blessings!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Step Wisely


Why in heaven's name would I open a blog post with a picture of my foot?!

There is a reason, I can promise you.  

This is a picture that Parker took of Noni's foot during a recent "photo shoot" he was doing.  (Please be reminded Parker is three years old and things have a different perspective from the vantage point of being 2 1/2 feet tall.)

Here's the picture he snapped of his mom who was finishing her makeup in Noni's office.  Great composition with his use of the door, don't you think?  He must have his dad's eye for photography.

As I scrolled back through pictures and wondered what I could use to encourage you today, I laughed aloud when I saw the picture of my foot.  We were trying to entertain Parker until time for his class that Sunday morning.  He grabbed my phone and proceeded to snap over twenty pictures in and around my office.  I will spare you wading through the rest but some were hysterical.  Ah, the eyes of a child.

Looking at his pictures brought back to mind a little song I learned when I was myself a three year old child.  Perhaps you learned it as well.  One of the verses went like this, "Oh be careful little feet where you go. Oh be careful little feet where you go.  For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little feet where you go."  

I spent several minutes pondering the truth of that simple line from the perspective of my own life.  

Although I've experienced quite a few detours and missed exits on my life journey, I've always tried to keep a mindset that my steps mattered. I've prayed to know direction about everything from lunch dates to a life mate.  I just always wanted my steps to be appropriate and God honoring.

Never in a million years could I ever have guessed that stepping toward Frank as my life mate would lead to three precious daughters, three amazing sons (in-law) and now NINE practically perfect grandchildren.  And all those people have been watching to see if I choose steps walking me toward God's will.

Is this not the most honest picture ever?!

Two weeks ago, Frank and I had the privilege to attend a denominational conference which brought ministers from all over the nation to Orlando.  Since we've been part of this organization for decades, the conference is always like a huge family reunion. We love seeing friends from college days, others we've pastored near and even many spiritual children who have served with us at different times. 

We especially enjoy reconnecting with many of our missionary friends who happen to be in the States for the event.  Frank and I were even invited to attend a luncheon where there would be a report on a missions organization we currently support.

I sent a text to our friend who is the director and offered to help in any way since we live in the area.  She responded quickly asking if we would be willing to arrive early and serve as greeters for the other guests.  

Now, some people might have been offended by such a request.  "Hold the door and give directions?  Are you kidding?  Don't they know who we are?"  But Frank and I were delighted to serve as the welcoming committee.  We love people and greeting is as natural for us as breathing.

Little did I suspect that the Lord had prepared a divine appointment for me on that path of service.  

We did arrive before anyone else and stationed ourselves at the entrance of the restaurant. We welcomed several couples, always introducing ourselves then moving them on toward the banquet area. But the next couple caught me completely by surprise.  

Before I could offer my name the young lady said,  "You're Sheri Hawley, aren't you?!"  I checked my name tag and jokingly assured her I was.  She went on, "Of course I know you.  You spoke for a conference I was attending almost twenty years ago.  While listening to you, the Lord confirmed a call He had for my life."

My mouth dropped open a bit and tears stung my eyes almost immediately.  She reached to give me a huge, warm hug and I tried not to drip tears on her shoulder.  It was humbling and exhilarating all at the same time.  How often do we find out in such a literal way that our footsteps have created a pathway for someone else to follow?  

Crystal and I captured a quick photo together

"Oh, be careful little feet where you go."  

I'm so glad I didn't miss the opportunity to meet Crystal because I was too proud to hold open a door. Choosing to walk with gratitude on a short pathway of service led to a most joyful moment.

Psalm 34:8 was a perfect description of that moment for me.  "Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" 

Be encouraged, Dear Reader.  Your steps do matter.  Someone is watching, contemplating and most likely following in the pathway you've forged.  Be careful to step wisely!