Monday, February 27, 2023

Look Both Ways

"Look both ways!!"  It's the word of caution we yelled to our children before they crossed any road.  It's also what I hear my own girls yelling at their children now. 

But as I write today, I find myself "looking both ways" with a different purpose in mind.  I find myself at a crossroads that requires me to look back and forward at the same time.  It's not easy but if I'm going to fully embrace this moment, it's what i need to do.

You see, there are MAJOR changes happening in our immediate family: 

  1. This Friday, Cody will have surgery for thyroid cancer.  He and Kristin will be out of commission for at least two weeks. 
  2. Next Wednesday, Frank and I will leave to spend 30 days with school,  ministry and sabbatical in the Philippines.  (Why, yes!  That IS exactly halfway around the world.)
  3. On March 23rd, Meagan and Nathan will close on the sale of their house and prepare for their move to NC.  Which very likely will happen while we are in the Philippines.  (Did I mention that's halfway around the world?)
  4. Also on March 23rd, Joy will receive an iodine treatment to kill off any lingering cancer cells in her body.  The toughest part of this is the required isolation for 5 days.  They have four young children.  John will be covering our positions as well as taking care of his family.  Who's going to help them while we're .......halfway around the world?!
Not the easiest of times.  

But when our Smiths called last week to say the house was under contract, I found the peace of Christ especially near.  Meagan asked how we were doing and I responded with what must have been inspired of heaven because it was too profound to be my own thought. "We're good, Sweetheart.  God will provide grace and the only way we won't have grace is if we refuse what He's offering." 

So, in order to exercise embracing the grace we're being offered, I find myself looking both backward and forward many times each day.  Here's how it works.

1. We're looking back and rehearsing that although "cancer" is a frightening word, God carried Joy through this last summer.  In fact, the same surgeon who operated on her will be operating on Cody.  Moffitt is one of the best cancer centers in the country.  So, we look forward to a good outcome.

2. Although it's been many years since we traveled overseas for such a long time, I'm looking back and realizing those were fruitful times of ministry.  They also gave Frank and I opportunity to reconnect which is much needed after all his hard work on this graduate degree.  So, I'm also looking forward to writing and pondering and ministry times in a nation I've never before visited.  New Adventures Ahead.

3. I look back on the many miracles that occurred in order for Meagan and Nathan to be able to purchase their beautiful home.  I thank God for His abundant provision and it gives me reason to look forward to what He surely must have in store for such obedient followers of His.  I look back at the army of friends who helped them pack and move two short years ago, many of them are still here and will help in our absence. 

4. John and Joy have been so good about blessing others around them.  I look back on all the kindness they've sown and I have an assurance that they will reap abundantly in return.  Someone will be there to offer food and childcare and encouragement - all the things they've lavishly given to others. 

Yesterday was our final family meal together for this season.  When we first moved here eighteen years ago, the girls determined we would have a meal together at least once a week.  Monday night became the designated time when no one scheduled work, classes or dates.  Monday was Family Meal night.  As they married and our original five morphed into an amazing eighteen, the day and frequency had to change.  But we've still try to get together at  least once a month.

The girls requested one of our family favorites - Greek chicken.  (Which I learned to cook while serving for six weeks in Greece over forty years ago.)

Frank understood how important it was for me, so he made time Sunday morning to help set the table with full china and stemware.  Everyone but the youngest three ate on English bone china for lunch.  I looked back on the missions trip when we visited the "seconds" shop and bought all these dishes for a fraction of their market price.  And I smiled looking forward to someday when those grandbabies will tell about eating Sunday dinner on Noni and Papa's pretty country rose plates.  

It was a resplendent afternoon.  

There was lots of laughter, many stories, great food, kids running and playing, a few pictures, and ending with prayer.  Yes, I made it through without becoming a blubbery mess.  The moment was just too marvelous for tears.  

We've been blessed to live near one another for the past seventeen years.  We've been together for each courtship and wedding.  We've worked hard packing and unpacking boxes for a total of twelve moves.  We've held each of the ten grandbabies within minutes of them being born.  We've wept and rejoiced together over the big things and the small.  

I'm well aware that most people never get to experience anything like this and believe me - I Am Grateful!  I've also been careful to ask the Lord for help in holding this marvelous season with open hands.  Now that the steps He has ordered require such massive shifting, I must chose to look back on His kindness in letting us have this season. Then immediately chose to look forward knowing He will be with us in the new season, as well.  

He hasn't run out of blessings.  They will just look different.  (How would you say I'm doing with embracing the grace I need?) Tears come as I write,  and I have more questions than answers for our new season.  But I have only to look back on the faithfulness of God in order to have courage to look forward with faith for tomorrow.

How about you?  We'd love to hear about the changes that have occurred in your family and how you've navigated them.  Click on the comment box below and share them with us, please.  


Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Frank and I just finished eating leftovers while sitting on our back porch and watching the sun set.  What's so newsworthy about that, you may ask? Well, I served our bit of dinner on my beautiful Winter Greetings china by Lenox.  

"China on the back porch?!  Who does that?"

We did.

Here's the 'why' behind our dinner upgrade.

Last Sunday we were privileged to dedicate Olivia Rae McGhee back to the Lord in our morning church service.  There were two other precious babies, many parents, grandparents and a loving congregation that were also part of the moving ceremony.  It was simply precious.

But our children have told us that Olivia is most likely our final grandchild.  We appreciate their warning and have taken it seriously.  After all, how many Nonis have TEN perfect grandchildren?  Frank and I are acutely aware of just how blessed we are.  

So ever since the announcement that Kristin and Cody were pregnant,  we have been savoring every moment.  Actually, our entire family has been marking the gift.

Olivia wore the dedication dress I made eleven years ago.  Almost forty years ago, my mom made a lovely dedication dress from white eyelet that each of our girls wore and I wanted to carry on the special tradition.  

I'm not much of a seamstress so I recruited the help of an expert in our church.  Her name is Pat and she helped me create an exquisite gown.  We intentionally wove ribbons that could be replaced with different colors to suit the taste of each mom.  (Joy chose pale pink for her girls and Kristin asked for a dusty lavender.)

Abby wore it first.  Five years later it was Ava's turn.  When Madi was to be dedicated, we couldn't locate the dress, so she wore the original which her own mom had worn.  Can you tell we love tradition around here?

Sunday morning, Joy sent a picture to me that pulled everything into sharp focus.  She had just come across a picture of Abby Grace sitting in the middle of a table at church when she was not much older than Olivia is now.  It made me catch my breath with the realization of just how quickly time is flying.  For those wondering, the answer is yes, I cried.

To listen as parents promised to point Olivia back to Christ, her Maker.  To watch Olivia smile at her mom and dad.  To observe our congregation stand and pray over the young families giving their lives and children to God for His purposes.  Well, it was another defining moment for me.

Parker (Olivia's four-year-old brother) carefully touched her delicate white dress then whispered to Kristin, "Mom, is Owivia getting marhweed?"  "No, sweet boy.  She's being dedicated to Jesus just like you were."

He nodded his head as if he remembered it all.

"Sheri, that sounds like it was a beautiful time.  But what does it have to do with a story about your china and the back porch."

Here's the point for us all - we only have today.  I only have today to really SEE and SAVOR the joys of my grandchildren.  In just five more years, we will have grands with drivers licenses giving them permission to operate gas powered motor vehicles on major roadways.  How can that be?!

All too soon, there will be no more holding or rocking them.  Cuddling, tickling and hand holding will be drastically reduced.  Today.  Today is my only opportunity to indulge in these activities that will become the memories I treasure and rehearse in all my tomorrows.

That's why I served our leftovers on China today because today was my opportunity to make a memory for tomorrow.  Too many days have already passed with me waiting for a better moment to plan and host the special event requiring china.  Today is what I have.  Today.

I can almost hear someone thinking, "That dish could have broken on the cement floor." Yes but it's just a dish.  And even if it had, the memory would have only been richer and funnier.

So, here's my question for you, Dear Reader, "What have you not been seeing, not putting to use as you wait for a more perfect moment?"  Today is the most perfect moment I can imagine.

Call your parents.  Hug your children.  Attend your grandchild's ballgame.  Take the pictures.  Eat on the good dishes.  Plan that trip.  Don't wait for tomorrow, time is flying past too quickly.  Grasp today and make the best memories you can. 

If you do, I can almost promise . . . you'll thank me tomorrow.