Saturday, April 30, 2022

Finding Gold

Frank and I just returned from a wonderful week at a pastor's retreat sponsored by the Billy Graham Training Center.  It was just what the doctor ordered after Easter.

I wanted to get another post on for April so I reached back a few years for this beauty.  It inspired me again as I read it.  Certainly hope you find it encouraging, too.

One rainy Saturday afternoon, Mom and I were watching a western movie on TV.  At the time, I was just a teenager.  Halfway through, the hero of the movie was being encouraged to abandon the mine where he and others had been working.  "It's hopeless," said the villain.  "Give it up!  You'll never find anything anyway."

At that very moment an old man, weathered and leathery-looking, came hobbling out of the saloon. He had heard the conversation and knew it looked hopeless but he also knew that with hard work, success was possible.  (Apparently, the villain just wanted the mine for himself.)  The old fella declared boldly in a pinched, uneducated voice, "Thar's gold in them thar hills!!"  His statement (so funny sounding) immediately became a by-line for Mom and me.

If I faced something that required more work than I originally thought but the reward would be great, Mom would look at me, wink one eye and in her best imitation of the old miner she'd say, "Thar's gold in them thar hills, Sheri!"  (In other words, keep working.  Don't give up now!)

If I found Mom quietly crying because of some disappointment, I would slide up beside her, give her my best daughter hug and whisper, "Thar's gold in them thar hills, Mama."  She would start chuckling even if the tears weren't quite finished.  "Well I sure hope I find some soon," she often answered.

I hadn't thought of our little inside joke for a long time, until this morning when I struck gold.  I'll have to back up a bit to explain.

We purchased our current home eleven years ago.  We had just become pastors in FL after serving as evangelists for six years.  During the evangelist years, we lived in a forty-foot RV.  I can assure you that living as a family in 400 square feet helps you know what household items are important and which ones you can live without.

Moving from the RV back to a full-sized home left me with quite a few vacant spots.  We needed everything from beds and bedding, to living room furniture, lamps, decorations, even a shower curtain.  Needless to say, I was constantly on the look out for inexpensive ways to fill our household.

The young man we bought our house from was a bachelor engaged to be married.  The house had been, for him, simply an investment so his furnishings were rather sparse as well.  At the walk through, I noticed a lovely set of dishes he had just sitting against one wall.

"Those are beautiful," I commented.

"One of the ladies in my church gave them to me," he said.  "We won't use them.  Would you like them?"

Although dishes weren't actually on my list, I really liked the look of them and answered, "Sure!"  It was a complete service for eight and FREE.  If I didn't use them, one of the girls probably would. The dishes promptly went into storage in the garage.

Fast forward to my season of purging and reorganizing - that would be now.  The dishes I've been using for everyday ware are lovely but after five years of constant service they were showing their age.  I decided to sell them in the yard sale we had and start looking around for a replacement set.

That's when I remembered the dishes in storage.

They would do just fine as my temporary set.  Only problem, our family has grown to 13 and we would need more dishes.  I went online to search out where to pick up a few more pieces.  That's when the discovery was made.

The simple blue and white plates, cups, saucers and such that had been sitting in dark storage bins for eleven years are actually a fine grade of willow ware made in Stafforshire, England.  It's known as the Winston Churchill collection.

The meat platter alone cost over $300!  I was in total shock.  I had no idea such exquisite and expensive beauty had been hidden away in my garage, serving no one all these years.

This morning as I carefully unpacked, washed and shelved the Winston Churchill collection,  my mind whirled with so many unanswered thoughts:

  • Who was the original owner?
  • Was it a set slowly collected or perhaps wedding dishes for some young bride?
  • Were they often used or seldom?
  • Was there laughter around their table, too?
  • Why did the lady give them to the bachelor?
  • Was no one in her family interested in them?
  • Did no one appreciate their value?
As always, the Lord used my ponderings to whisper a truth to my heart.  "Sheri, there are pockets of gold hidden all around you.  You must have eyes to see it and a willingness to work at mining the gold.  Appreciate what I've placed in your hands."

For me, that translates to:
  • Watch for the people around you who are pure gold.  They may be quiet and you may have to mine their gifts.  But appreciate them; see them!
  • Watch for the moments of gold.  A pat on the face from tiny jam hands.  A tender kiss good-bye.  A hug from a true friend.  A casual, "Love you, Mom!"
  • Watch for the golden life lessons.  Hardships that made you stronger.  Lonely times that push you toward friends.  Answered prayers that remind you of God's faithfulness.  
All this from a revived set of dishes.  

I wish Mom were here this Mother's Day to marvel with me over this amazing story.  I wish she and I could share some coffee using the finely crafted cups.  I wish I could eat one of her wonderful meals served on the rich blue and white pattern.  That can't happen.  

But I can imagine the twinkle in her eye and the wink as she would surely look sideways at me and say,  "Never stop looking, Sheri.  Thar's gold in them thar hills!"

Here's praying you'll find the gold waiting to be discovered in your own life! 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Is it Still Easter?

 He Is Risen!  He Is Risen, INDEED!!

As followers of Christ, that's our greeting for Easter.  I didn't actually learn that until a couple of decades ago but that doesn't stop me from using it liberally now.  How about you?

Here's my favorite picture from the day - 

Are those not some of the most adorable grandbabies you ever saw?!  (Yes, that was indeed a rhetorical question.) 

The back row is L to R: Noah Smith 8, Abby Schreck 9, Spencer Schreck 11, Andrew Smith 2 and Madi Smith 5.  You can't see her but Meagan is actually hiding and holding up Andrew because he had had enough of picture taking by the time we did this one.  

The front row L to R: Zach Schreck 5, Grayson Smith 3, Parker McGhee 3 and Ava Schreck 4. Spencer just had his birthday in February but seven summer birthdays are on the horizon.  What a Crew!!

The weeks leading up to Easter 2022 were (for our family) full of joy, sickness, unexpected emergencies and even a couple of surgeries.  Needless to say, my spring decorations appeared in a very limited form two days before our Easter dinner. 

Some of you readers will remember that I've always declared April to be my favorite month of the year.  Christmas is my favorite season and Easter is my favorite holiday.  (Do you get the idea that I just enjoy looking for opportunities to celebrate?)

But this was the first Easter of the past 37 that Frank and I haven't enjoyed a private sunrise service with our girls.  Yes, it was a bit sad for me.  He and I began this tradition when Kristin was a toddler and Joy was only eight months old.  Meagan had not yet made her appearance.

Our plan was simply to make the day about more than just new dresses, Easter baskets and egg hunts.  We wanted to do something that brought the day alive for our girls.  

We figured reading the Bible account of the women going to the tomb at dawn while experiencing their own sunrise would do just that.  After the reading, we sang resurrection songs with croaky morning voices and prayed together thanking God for the gift of salvation. Then it was on to breakfast which always included orange cinnamon rolls.

We've morphed and adapted our tradition many times through the years.  But last year, the girls talked with me afterward explaining that it was just too much for them to get their children up and out the door for us to share a sunrise service together anymore.  

It wasn't easy but it was something I needed to understand in order to keep our relationship strong.  

So,  I chose to be okay.

Frank is a good husband who read the timeless story with just he and I on the back porch Easter morning.  He even attempted a song but I couldn't sing and cry at the same time.  Vocal chords are funny that way. 

Here's the picture of us later in the morning.  Isn't he handsome?  (Again, rhetorical.)

I'm smiling genuinely because once we arrived at church (around 6:30 and 7:00) we were immediately reminded how fortunate we are.  John and his team had been working since 5:30.  Our auditorium wouldn't hold everyone for Easter so we were meeting under a tent.  Lots of fun for those who arrived just before service but LOTS of work for our tech team.  

And arrive they did!  

We offered breakfast for the early birds and a free family photo.  (Scarlette Photography.  Jamie does amazing work.  Did you notice that all those grandbaby eyes were OPEN?!)

As the people gathered, the joy and energy were electric.  Everyone was so thankful to be together.  There was laughter, conversation, hugs and handshakes all around.  

The worship was absolutely powerful and Frank did a wonderful job recounting once again the most important story in all of history: the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ. 

There was a holy hush on the crowd when he asked this pointed question, "Now, what will you do with the gift that has been provided for you?"  No need to pound the pulpit or coerce anyone.  He spoke it tenderly as a father would to his children.  We all felt the weight of such a question and decision.

We're sure many were challenged to follow Christ.

After the service, we got our pictures with the grands and each family did their own individual shot.  There was so much happening, we never managed to get one all together but you'll enjoy these, I'm sure. 

In order, The McGhees.  Kristin, Cody, Parker and Olivia who will make her appearance this July. 


Next would be the Schrecks. Spencer, Zach, John, Joy, Ava and Abby.  (Abby had eye surgery three weeks ago and is still recovering; although, the surgeon said it went well.)


Finally, the Smiths.  Madi, Nathan, Grayson, Andrew, Meagan and Noah.  (They literally drove back to FL on Saturday after being in NC for the funeral of his precious Grandma Smith.)  

Who could be anything but joyful after scanning these beautiful smiles?  We opted for an Easter dinner get together this year and when it started raining we chose to hide the Easter eggs in the house.  Man oh man, was that search ever LOUD!  We ended with a time of sharing the timeless story once more in a way the children could help explain and prayed together thanking Jesus for his sacrifice.  

Yes, I ended the day exhausted but content.

Just in case you didn't smile yet, here's one more picture:

Please look closely at Frank's feet.  If you're reading in California, his feet look perfectly normal.  But his mother in NC is yelling, "Did that boy not wear socks on Easter Sunday?!!"  She is shaking her head with embarrassment, I assure you.

Actually, you can tell I'm laughing because he did forget his socks.  (The men all came to church in work clothes then changed.)  After our slotted photo time, I made a mad dash to the nearest CVS pharmacy and spent too much money on the last pack of dress socks they had available.  Certainly glad Jamie captured this for posterity.

I opened this post with the question, "Is it still Easter?"  

I'm well aware that many of you marked your Easter with massive changes from years gone by.  All I had to deal with was a change of tradition.  But you may have lost a family member during the past year.  Others have a friend they've lost contact with or a child who won't return their calls.  

My heart aches for you!

For you, the question is literal.  Your heart cries out, "Is the resurrection of Christ still applicable?  Does God even care about my pain today?" 

And for you, my friend, there is a literal answer - YES!  

I know from personal experience that the Bible writer was accurate when he told us that Jesus is very near the broken-hearted.  Your pain, caused by this broken world we live in, is the very reason He gave His life.  He died to restore relationship to God the Father for you and I.  That relationship is the only perfect one and the only one that provides HOPE in every moment of question.

Is it still Easter?  

Because he lives, I hope your answer is the same as mine, Yes!  Every day I live knowing His love is Easter.