It’s everything leading up to Christmas

Christmas for me is all about the preparations—what happens between the day after Thanksgiving right up until Christmas Day: putting up the tree, decorating the house inside and out, enjoying Christmas music while putting together Christmas puzzles, shopping online and opening each Amazon box to rediscover what I ordered, wrapping gifts for the grands, baking AND eating Christmas cookies, and getting to attend some local Christmas concerts.

This year, Greg got the tree up and did all the decorations while I baked and ordered gifts. We did a very challenging Ugly Sweater puzzle, and have been watching Hallmark Christmas movies for weeks. But the musical events have really been the highlight. Outstanding and definitely reminding us of the true meaning of this wonderful holiday we celebrate.

On November 30 we were able to attend the Gaither Homecoming Concert in Lakeland and can I just say WOW!!! We were uplifted from the moment the music started. It was all about Jesus and absolutely glorious…especially when Mark Lowery sang his beloved song “Mary Did You Know?”

I wasn’t sure anything could top that so I wasn’t expecting much last Monday when the hubster and I, along with my dad, attended a concert right here where we live. The musical guests were two groups from the local public high school. And from the very first song to the last, each one glorified the Lord and told the Christmas story. I kid you not. This was a public high school. Let me repeat, THIS WAS A PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL!

These kids were full of life and smiles, enjoying every minute and often praising God while singing. I spoke with the director afterwards to express my appreciation and wonder at the songs, and he simply said “You can’t take Christ out of Christmas.” And boy, is he right!

At this point I’m completely filled with Christmas cheer and the wonder of my Lord, but there’s more. Greg and I were the blessed recipients of tickets for the First Baptist Church Orlando Christmas show last week. Two huge singing Christmas trees comprised of hundreds of singers and accompanied by an amazing 55-piece orchestra were the stars along with all sorts of other singers and animals. Did someone say “camel?” Yup, one of those, too. The event began with a stroll through Bethlehem Village complete with actors staying true to the biblical times, animals to pet, and pictures to be taken in the manger. The evening ended on a high note with the Hallelujah Chorus. What a fantastic evening.

So, the Christmas spirit has indeed taken hold in my heart this year. And I’m loving it. Hope, you, too, are able to find some events to attend. If not, you can always drive around to view the Christmas lights. Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and some of those delightful Christmas cookies you’ve been baking and enjoy this very special time of year.

Yes, Christmas Day is wonderful, too. But the preparation time before hand is what gets to my heart much like the 9 months of pregnancy before childbirth. It’s all so very special as we anticipate the glory of what is to come.

Mimi

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So very thankful.

Do you like our beautiful “blessing tree?” We used it as a centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day.

 

But what makes the tree so special is that it’s a tree of thankfulness. As each guest arrived to share a Thanksgiving meal, they were given a paper leaf and asked to write down something they were thankful for.  And as each leaf was tied onto a branch the centerpiece became more and more beautiful.

 

But more than physical beauty, the true beauty was in what each leaf said. People were thankful for family, for health, and for God. Some messages were long; some were short. But the one-word message Callan wrote really said it all…”God.”

 

Truly, God is the answer to everything. And Callan got it right. Happy, close-knit family? It’s because of God. A great job? God. And your health or making it through a health scare as Greg did this past year? Yup, God.

 

So, in one word, Callan summed it all up.

 

Then as the family gathered around the table, 9-year-old Konnor read aloud each leaf as we tried to guess who said what. And together we rejoiced in our many blessings and being able to share those blessings with our family.

 

How about you? What are you thankful for this year?

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17a).

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 106:1).

 

Mimi

Roadblocks

Ugh. We all experience roadblocks. But we’re rarely happy about them.

This week, I’m passing along a link to a great article by J. Lee Grady who writes for Charisma Media (various online publications).

I love Lee’s take on things. He speaks from his heart and shares insights, encouragement to believers, and isn’t timid about calling believers on the carpet when we’re not in line with the Word.

This week’s article explains in seven steps how God uses roadblocks in our lives to transform us. Here is one paragraph as a preview. Please consider using THIS LINK so you can read the entire post.

Many times, God creates roadblocks in our lives because He’s working on us. We may not understand what He’s doing, but we must trust Him anyway and accept whatever delays He is causing. The delays are always for our good.

Most times I vote for NO ROADBLOCKS, but I most definitely want to be transformed by the Holy Spirit so will work on my attitude and try to learn to be more welcoming when they show up. How about you?

Mimi

Thankfully, God Looks at the Heart

While taking a walk today, I saw this in the sky. Kind of looks like a funny cloud, doesn’t it? But I know differently and for that, it made me smile. It made me happy. And it served to remind me of God’s love.

So how could a funny cloud do all that? Because I know what is really going on beyond what you see. About 30 minutes earlier I had seen some letters in the sky put there by a local skywriter. On a day with no breeze, the letters stay up quite a while, enabling you to clearly see a reminder of God’s love. With today being breezy, the letters were barely visible and for only a brief period of time, but having lived in the area since 1999 I knew the message beyond what I was actually seeing. And that’s why I smiled.

Here’s a typical message written in our skies: Jesus Loves U. (Want to know more? Here’s a LINK to an article from 2011 about the Holy Smoke pilots.)

As I walked this afternoon and saw the “funny cloud” I was indeed smiling because I knew in reality it was a message of hope and inspiration. It didn’t matter to me that the message was obscured because I knew what wasn’t showing. And this reminded me of how our Lord sees us.

We often look at our lives, look at our actions and judge ourselves harshly. We are unable to see potential; we instead see ourselves through obscured sight. But the Lord sees clearly and He sees someone He loves and has a plan for. He sees who we are in Him and through Him.

Whether or not you have a skywriter in your area posting reminders of God’s tremendous love for you, please be encouraged to know:

  • You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (1 Peter 2:9-10 The Message)
  • For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 New Living Translation)
  • But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7 New International Version)

Anyone struggling to see yourself as God sees you? Please let me know. It would be my privilege to pray for you.

Mimi

Oops.

Salvaged freezer items.

Two oops actually. (1) I forgot to schedule this post for Monday so am posting it today instead. And (2), read on to learn about my next oops.

Recently, hubby and I spent an afternoon combining a trip to Costco with catching a movie at a theater, both about 35 minutes away. Knowing we would be gone for hours and also knowing we would be purchasing refrigerator items that needed to remain cold, right before hopping into the car we pulled out some bags of ice and ice packs from the freezer, tossing them in the cooler.

We did our Costco run, saw the movie, and arrived home about 4 hours later. The Costco items were still cold from being in the cooler so we felt very successful about our trip.

But upon entering the garage I began to hear a very distinctive beeping which turned out to be the freezer alarm. You guessed it. The freezer door had been open the entire time and it was now dripping with melting ice, circulating warm air, sending water all over the garage floor, and it was easy to see many items were already ruined. So, we quickly began mopping up the water, tossing out the ruined food, and then we turned our attentions on figuring out what, if anything, could be saved.

Cooked goodies.

I ended up with lots of blueberries I had lovingly picked by hand several months prior, a bunch of chicken and ground beef that was still cool to the touch, and a few other odds and ends. Everything else was pretty much mush and was thrown away.

But my afternoon was just beginning because now came the task of doing something with what remained. So, I cooked. The raw chicken and beef became dinner over the next few days with the remainder going in to the freezer for future meals. The bread products were eaten over the next week. But all those blueberries…what to do!

With the blueberries, I made a crumb pie, muffins, and the remaining berries were cooked down with thickeners to be used for pie or a cobbler in the future.

I have to admit; the situation didn’t get the better of me. I was grateful we were able to save some of the items. Plus, I learned a very important lesson. And while I’ve owned freezers for decades without a problem like this, I now am very careful to be double sure the door is completely closed after I retrieve an item.

And through it all I laughed. Laughed that it happened, laughed that I had to quickly get in the kitchen for several hours to try to salvage what I could. And even laughed at throwing out the entire blueberry pie because I hadn’t thoroughly drained the berries after thawing and the excess juice soaked the crust in a very unappetizing way. It was basically a horrible pie.

Life kind of hits us like that every now and then. Sometimes we’re more prepared than others. But in all cases, we need to make the best of the situation, deal directly with whatever is happening in a timely way, try to view it from God’s perspective, and when necessary…learn from it.

Freezer items aren’t a big deal to lose. Yes, it cost me some time and yes, we lost the value of many items, but it was fixable. But when life hits us hard, it isn’t always immediately fixable and sometimes losing money or health is devastating. And most times there really isn’t anything to laugh about.

But after walking with the Lord for years, this I do know: God is still God. He still loves me and He still loves you. We may not understand all that’s happening and most times we don’t have his perspective on what is happening or why; but He is completely trustworthy.

Those two precious Bible verses from (Proverbs 3:5-7a) that we know and love remind us of this: From The Message: Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!

And from the New International Version the same verse reads: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

I certainly haven’t learned to do this consistently but I’m welcoming lessons that will help me more clearly see that so much of what we worry about really doesn’t matter. What matters is keeping our eyes on Him, seeking His plan, following Him, and learning to completely trust Him to take care of us.

How about you? Any life lessons you’ve learned that you’d care to share?

Mimi

 

Sharing the gift of hospitality.

Have you ever had a wonderful experience that was the result of outstanding hospitality? More than a great hotel stay, I’m thinking of when you stay in someone’s home and they just go out of their way to welcome you and then do everything in their power to ensure a relaxing, comfy stay in their home. We have been blessed over the years with several friends who really know how to do that.

Our dear friends John and Marie, are part of that special list of friends and they were our destination after our recent Chattanooga trip.

After a hectic five days of driving and sightseeing, we so looked forward to chillaxin’ with friends in the beautiful mountains of Murphy, North Carolina. The two-hour drive there was spectacular as we drove the Cherokee National Forest and along the Ocoee Lakes and tributaries. I kept snapping picture after picture and couldn’t stop exclaiming how breathtaking it was.

Upon arrival in Murphy, we were greeted with the mouth-watering aroma of homemade bread just out of the oven. Hugs and cheek kisses followed with an invitation to settle in and put our feet up. Which we did. Then we were off for an enjoyable picnic on their boat as we toured the lake and found a good spot to “set a spell.” Back at their home we literally put our feet up as we sat on the deck enjoying the sounds of the coming autumn while drifting off for catnaps every now and then.

John and Marie have the kind of home and loving presence that just makes you feel like it really is okay to curl up on the furniture, wander off to do your own thing, or help yourself to something in the refrigerator.

And then there are the little touches like having a new toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom in case you forgot yours. So very thoughtful.

Of course, the meals at their house are always DELISH. Marie loves to cook and it seems in no time flat she whips up a scrumptious meal which is beautifully served on “the good dishes” complete with cloth napkins.

After a delightful afternoon boat ride and that delicious dinner, we enjoyed a few hours on the deck around the fire pit. With toasty tootsies, we gabbed for a few hours before it was time to head to bed.

Though we cut our two-night visit short due to the anticipated rain from Hurricane Nate and wanting to get home before it hit, they were completely understanding and made sure we had a hot breakfast before we hit the road.

Hospitality is mentioned in the Bible and these two truly have that gift. Though they took great care of us and our physical needs, I think what means the most is that Both John and Marie genuinely love having people in their home. It’s not an inconvenience at all. In fact, it’s a joy to them. And when your hosts are enjoying themselves, it flows right over to their guests, too.

1 Peter 4:8-10 reminds us of the importance of hospitality: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Thanks, John and Marie. You were a precious part of our recent vacation. You can count on a return visit in the future!

Mimi

Pardon me, boy…is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?

Can you guess where we went recently? If you guessed Chattanooga, you got it. And it was wonderful.

Living in a flat state with palm trees and very few other trees that actually change color, it was a thrill to travel to Tennessee and view the very beginnings of autumn’s explosion of color along with majestic mountain ranges.

The 9-hour car ride was quite enjoyable because we were armed with our favorite travel foods (Cheez-Its and peanut M&Ms). Not exactly healthy, but sure fun to enjoy while the miles just roll on by. But besides the yummy snacks, it was so nice to see mountains come into view for a delightful change of scenery.

The main purpose of the trip was to meet up with Greg’s brother and sister-in-law. Because they live in Ohio, we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to but Chattanooga, as it turns out, is about the same distance from our homes so it was the perfect meeting spot.

If you haven’t been, you should consider it for an upcoming get-away. Lookout Mountain has several attractions including Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the incline railway. And the city of Chattanooga is small and easy to navigate. The name itself comes from the Creek Indian work for “rock coming to a point” which refers to Lookout Mountain.

You’ll find museums, sculptures, a walking bridge, a steamboat to take you on a lunch tour, a fantastic aquarium, and some great restaurants. They have a free shuttle that allows you to park once and travel all day, hopping on and off wherever you like.

In its hay day, Chattanooga was a big railroad town with nearly “all trains traveling South passing through. And the original Chattanooga Choo Choo train was Cincinnati Southern Railroad’s small wood burning steam locomotive that started its journey through history from Cincinnati, Ohio on March 5, 1980. The wood-burning Choo Choo was the first to provide non-stop service.” (www.choochoo.com/about/history)

Some of the original railroad tracks are cleverly designed into the pavers surrounding the aquarium right beside plaques showing the lyrics and melody line of Glenn Miller’s famous song of the same name. Don’t be surprised if after reading this blog post and viewing the above pictures you find yourself humming that song, too.

Visiting new places is so much fun. Doing it with family is even better. And getting to see family members you don’t see often enough is just priceless.

Where are some of your favorite places to visit?

Mimi