Sunday, June 30, 2013


"G-I-F-T-S "

"Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious GIFT from Me."
~ Jesus Calling, June 25
Each year, I've been the one in my family that pleads for everyone to hand make their Christmas gifts.  For years I've begged, compromised, bargained with them.....all to no avail.  Not only do they not WANT handmade gifts, they also don't want to take the time and effort to MAKE a handmade gift.  They claim they aren't "creative"; they don't have "time"; it's just too much "trouble"....

blah blah blah...

But this past Christmas, Liz got her handmade gift....FINALLY!!!  My sister had drawn my name and as I was tearing through the shiny Christmas paper she wrapped my gift in, she sat in front of me barely able to hold her excitement back.  She was telling me how proud I'd be of her cause she actually "made" my present this year....just as I had asked every year for the past 52 years.  And I was thrilled that just maybe our family tradition was changing.  I opened the box carefully (didn't want to break the handmade gift!) and was surprised to see a flowery envelope staring back at me.  As I opened the envelope and removed the letter inside, I began to read "Merry Christmas Little Sister.....I Handmade You An Appointment For A COLONOSCOPY".  

Maybe this is why it came as no surprise that "Receiving Gifts" came in last on my 5 Love Languages quiz.  Gifts just don't rock my world.....UNLESS.....they are GIFTS from the heart.  Thoughtful, loving, just-for-no-reason gifts.  And believe it or not, my sister's gift of a colonoscopy was from deep within her heart.  I knew that.  Didn't much want it, but I knew it came out of LOVE.  See, my sister has been down the cancer road before and loved and cared for me enough that she didn't want me to go down this same road.  To her, this was the most loving GIFT she knew to give. And I was happy, if not a little "weirded out", to receive it.  

She taught me that LIFE is the best GIFT of all.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

GROWING SEEDS: "Words of Affirmation"


"Open your mouth only if what you are going to say
is more beautiful than silence."
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If "Words of Affirmation" is your love language, as it was mine, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Ohhhhh.......this is SO me.  Hard as I try, I have always worn my feelings on my shirt sleeve.  One insult and I'm ready to lock myself in the closet and stay there for a few days.  But throw a honeyed word my way and I'm 10' tall. 

One of the things I love most about our church is I'm constantly seeing Words of Affirmation in action.  I see it in the way Cindy talks to the Youth.....the way Pam speaks words of love to the little ones.....the way Virginia Smith talks to the Lunches of Love munchkins and the comforting words the adults speak to each other.  Not a week goes by that someone doesn't come up and tell me how much they are enjoying and appreciate reading my Sowing Seeds bulletin article.  It makes me SOAR!! 

I think sometimes we underestimate the power of our words.....after all, they're free, easy to give and take little effort.  Yet the right words, to the right person, at the right time, can mean the difference between life and death, love and hate, salvation or not. 

Look around; every one you meet.....the grocery clerk, your hairdresser, the waitress at Sonic, your pastor., YOU.....needs Words of Affirmation.

"So encourage each other and build each other up....."
1 Thessalonians 5:11a

A Chapter Closes.....A New One Begins

June 22, 2013

 "The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort - 
The opening......terror.
Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing - 
the opening a wonderfully joyous moment."
Andy Rooney

Have you ever read a book that you loved......loved to the point you dreaded coming to the end of the chapter?  Chuck and I are living the close of a chapter in our lives today.

Most of you were right there with Chuck and I as we went up and down all 14,000 feet of Pikes Peak on our motorcycle held your breath as we inched closer to the edge of the Million Dollar Highway in Ouray, CO......and you were right there with us when we were pounded with hail, unexpected snow storms and flooding rains.  You have traveled the country with us......every mile of it....sitting in the lens of my camera.....meeting the amazing people God dropped in our path all along the way.  It's been an incredible a book you can't put down and dread overwhelms you at the thought of turning the page to find the chapter ending......

We sold the motorcycle trike this weekend.

Chuck and I have turned the page and found a new chapter ahead of us. A blank piece of paper, we are heading into the unknown and I must admit to you....I'm scared....and incredibly sad.  Chuck's health is to the point where the motorcycle trike is being replaced with a wheelchair......our traveling days are over and selling the trike was the last piece of this amazing journey. 

But through all the tears I've shed this week over what selling the trike symbolizes, the most incredible thing happened.  The buyers of our beloved trike are a couple who are starting a chapter of their own where ours left off.  They plan on pulling that sweet trike behind their motorhome and traveling and feeling the freedom....awwww yes......that same wind and smell of pines that we lifted our heads and let hit us smack in the face as we traveled this amazing country and felt God's bubble of protection surrounding us each mile of.

God has blessed us once again......with new friends, Stephen and Pam, the new owners of that Black Cherry colored Honda Goldwing 1800 Motor Trike with the scratch on the back that we got in the Tyler State Park so many years ago........and that managed to do 318 curves in 11 miles on the Tail of the Dragon in N. Carolina.....TWICE......and that never let us down no matter how tough we were on it.  The trike may not belong to us anymore.....but the memories will always be ours.

God speed......Stephen and Pam.......and live the most life you can.....take chances......get off the highway and take the dirt road.....cause that's where you'll find the waterfalls.

Enjoy the next chapter, Stephen and Pam!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

GROWING SEEDS - "Quality Time & Father's Day"


"A Truly Rich Man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty."  Author Unknown

Rumor has it in our family that Dad always wanted to stop having children after the first 2......pretty tough position if you're #3....Fortunately for me, Mom never listened to Dad and decided to have that third child anyway.  He immediately named me "Softie".

Dad didn't know much about "Quality Time" while I was growing up.  He worked nights, slept days and was the one to always dish out the spankings. But as I grew older; he also grew older.....and mellowed somewhere along the way.  And he learned to treasure that love language called Quality Time.

He was the one who taught all of us kids how to drive.  Mom said we simply made her too nervous.  He patiently taught us to drive at Restland Cemetery and never failed to say "You can't kill anyone there" as we struggled with the clutch, grinding the gears and avoiding tombstones.

And he was the one who tricked his 16 year old youngest daughter into getting a job when she had no interest in working.  He flat out told me "You can't get a job" which prompted me to go out the next day and prove him wrong.  He knew just how to "work" his rebel daughter.  What a proud Dad he must have been driving past the local Wendy's a few days later seeing his youngest dressed in a Wendys costume; red pigtails wig, blue and white striped dress, standing on the corner with a sign that read "Hot n'Juicy Burgers".  I never saw him drive by, but I know he did.  He always quietly checked on his kids when we worked.  It was his silent "Quality Time" with us.

And Dad taught me to have "Quality Time" with my real Dad.....God.  He sacrificed HIS quality time with us kids by working more hours to pay for OUR quality time with God in the form of church school.  And isn't that exactly what our original Dad, God, did when He sacrificed His Son so we could live?


Sunday, June 9, 2013

GROWING SEEDS - "Faith, Hope, Love"

"Three things will last forever - FAITH, HOPE and LOVE - and the greatest of these is LOVE."
1 Corinthians 13:13

I read an interesting story this week about a husband and wife who, after going through bankruptcy and the loss of a job, put an offer on a house they not only wanted, but needed.  The only problem was, they didn't have the $10,000 needed for a down payment.  But to them, this wasn't a problem.  They knew God had the money for that down payment and they proceeded down the long road of loan applications and credit checks.  They thanked God for the $10,000 that was currently hidden from them, but they knew would be revealed at some point according to His will.  Wow.....such FAITH!  Two weeks before closing, the husband's father's estate released $10,000 to him and to each of his siblings; totally unaware of this prayer of FAITH and HOPE he had prayed.

I tell you this because this week has been a grueling week for the Etheridge family.  A week of neurologists, dermatologists, cataract surgeons and the dreaded oral surgeon.  Dreaded because I knew this was going to be expensive.  Cha-Ching "You-Could-Buy-A-House" expensive.  No insurance for this problem....a BIG problem.  But the story above popped up in my email box an hour before we met with the oral surgeon.  I was struck by the sheer faith of this couple, realizing that God could just have easily said "NO" to them.....but they proceeded on with FAITH and HOPE and LOVE for God.  Ohhhhh how I wish I had their faith!  I immediately went down on my knees and prayed that same prayer......"Thank You God, for the help and direction that is now hidden to us, but will be revealed according to YOUR will."

Fast forward an hour.....As the oral surgeon quoted his fee and I felt the anxiety kicking me in the gut and tears stinging my eyes just daring to spill out, I was reminded and comforted by the FAITH words I had read just an hour earlier.  Before I had time to fully inhale all that he had just told us, he said the most amazing thing; he was giving us a $10,000 discount because we were friends with his least that's what he thought.  Truth is, it was a discount from God.  The very amount from the FAITH story I had read earlier.....the story that reminded me to get on my knees when my legs wouldn't support me anymore.  A story about FAITH....that provided HOPE.....because we are LOVED.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

GROWING SEEDS: "The Main Thing Is To Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing"

“The Main Thing, Is To Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing.”

"A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day.
That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.
 "Where's Harry?" he was asked. 
"Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail." 
"You left Harry lying there and carried the deer back?"
"Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."(1)

Have you noticed how sometimes we get our priorities mixed up?  We get so wrapped up in our "It's All About Me!" attitude that we forget there is anyone else around with needs.

Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 "....You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.  This is the FIRST and GREATEST commandment.  A second is EQUALLY important.  Love your neighbor as yourself."

I don't know about you, but I don't think He was talking about just loving my neighbors, Troy and Becky.  I'm pretty sure Jesus was talking about my neighbor also being the elderly person who is tired and lonely; you know, the one where Pat Sajak and Vanna White are their very best friends these days.  I think He meant my neighbor, the Dennis-The-Menace kid, who I look at as someone else's problem.....but guess what?  He's my neighbor and I'm told to love him as much as I love myself.  Yikes!!

See, by loving our neighbor, i.e., EVERYONE,  we are showing how much we love God.  "I tell you the truth, whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was ME – you did it to ME." (Matt. 25:40).  We show our love for our neighbor and God by helping "feed" that hungry town kid through Lunches of Love and "teach" that lonely town kid through Vacation Bible School this summer.  We are showing our love for that elderly person, whose house we pass every day, by stopping in and making sure their A/C is working, that they have enough to eat and joining Pat and Vanna as their friend.

What we all need to be is a neighbor to Christ.