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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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Prepping for Irma

When we moved to Florida in 1999, we were looking for an adventure. Had no idea at the time that one of those adventures would be experiencing hurricanes.

Quite honestly, I never thought central Florida was a hurricane prone area until 2004 when four roared through our area (Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne) with devastating results for many. We lost two large trees, some screen house panels, and most of our fence but our neighbors lost roofs, entire screen houses, and their house interiors.

Tarps dotted the rooftops for months and the house next to us was destroyed and empty for over a year until it could be repaired. After Charley roared through we walked outside where it was eerily quiet. That’s when we discovered the oak trees lining the boulevard were down, one after the other. It was a poignant reminder of the power of a storm.

Having gone through those four, I planned for Irma. Or so I thought. Water…check.  Flashlights…check.  Clean laundry…check. Extra food…check. Freezers stuffed with extra ice…check. Bathtub filled…check. Cars gassed up and extra propane purchased…check.

Then yesterday as we got out the flashlights I realized I hadn’t purchased batteries. Stores were completely out of them. What to do?

I posted my need for D-batteries on our community Facebook page and within a few minutes someone called to offer me four of theirs. And things like that continue to occur not just for me but for others. Neighbors helping neighbors.

Then this morning, while looking through some pictures on my phone, I noticed something about my hurricane prep: it centered A LOT on food! One look at the above photo will show you what I mean. Three of the photos clearly involve food: the giant apple fritter for hurricane comfort food brought by a neighbor, Meyer lemons I picked from my tree so they wouldn’t get blown away in the winds, and then there’s Greg and I eating ice cream cones because when they power goes out they will melt, so it’s either eat them, or they go to waste.

Yet, while I was concentrating on food, my 6-year old grandson was out doing good: he was rescuing animals. Note his little toad in the box. At least one of us has their priorities straight! (Just a little Irma humor before the big event. But also, a reminder that we should never lose sight of what’s important.)

Losing a freezer of food is no big deal. My luscious lemons being tossed in the wind…who cares. But a little boy helping animals…now that’s the right thing to do. Just like my neighbor responding to my inquiring for batteries, helping others, looking for a need to fill, those are noble pursuits.

Irma’s finally going to make her way here tonight and if the predictions are correct, we’ll see 80-90 MPH gusts of wind and 8-12” of rain. That’s a lot for this area. Power will be knocked out and some people will need to go into survival mode.

At this point, we trust in God and are thankful for family, friends, and neighbors who are ready to pitch in.

Mimi

Before…After (God is Doing a New Thing)

My precious sister-in-law gave me a wonderful idea. Just look at the photo above. She took a used, empty can and transformed it into a vase sitting in her kitchen window. I loved the idea and that particular can so much that I actually purchased the same brand of crushed tomatoes just to have one so I could do the same. And today I did.

After making spaghetti sauce yesterday, I carefully removed the can’s lid, and thoroughly washed out the can, hoping to eliminate the tomato sauce as much as possible. Then it sat empty. And it looked pretty. Or maybe I should say it looked pretty good all by itself.

Today, I happened to do a little gardening and pulled out a small begonia plant that just wasn’t happy where I had planted it. I was on my way to tossing it out when I saw the can and voila! I was hit with the idea to use that can and try to nurse the begonia back to health. So that’s what I did.

And while the pink doesn’t necessary go with the color scheme of the tomato can, the can itself looks so much nicer now, doesn’t it!

Not only is my crushed tomato can pretty on its own, it’s now looking even better, and it’s serving a great purpose.

And right away, I could see our wonderful Father in Heaven using this as an illustration. He sees us as a vessel and we look pretty good. We serve some good purposes. But then He does a little cleaning and a little repurposing, puts us to work possibly in a whole new way, and just like that, we are re-beautified (my word), given a new assignment, and can radiantly portray God’s glory.

Job 8:7 reminds us “Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”  And Isaiah 43:19 states that we should “Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it?”

Great reminders that God uses empty vessels willing to yield themselves to the Potter’s hands. He is never finished with us. He is always prepared to use us in new ways. And whether or not we feel insignificant like the empty can, our end will increase greatly. Hallelujah, thank you, Lord.

Yup, all that from an empty tomato can. I just love how the Lord talks to me…in clear, every day illustrations. How about you? How does God speak to you? Please share.

Mimi

Grandpa Love

Relationships are fascinating. While most people love their family members equally, at times some of those relationships seem to have a little something extra, something special. It’s hard to explain but precious to see.

Case in point my niece Jacquie and my dad, her grandpa. My dad has six grandkids and he loves them all deeply but there’s always been just a little something extra special with Jacquie. And recently it was so clearly demonstrated by the photo above.

As we prepared to fly home from New York, I was busy in the kitchen making sandwiches for both the lunch and dinner we would be having while flying back. Jacquie joined me in the prep but said she wanted to make the sandwich for her grandpa…a special sandwich. And she certainly did.

My dad loves liverwurst. And while it makes my skin crawl to think about eating it, I’ll happily make him a sandwich with it. But no, Jacquie wanted to do it herself. She wanted to make a special sandwich for her grandpa that would have one of his favorite ingredients on it. So, she did. And to top it off, she labeled the baggie with her pet name for him. And added the heart!

Looking at that photo means a lot to me and it meant a lot to him on our travel day. That labeled bag brings a smile and expresses love. She took the time, chose the right ingredient, made it on the bread he likes with the mayo he likes, and went the extra step to write his name and include the heart. Doesn’t that say love to you?

Such a simple thing really. It didn’t take a lot of time and cost nothing but it was a gift of love, a gift of great value because it came from her heart.

Jacquie’s gift to her Geepa is a great example for us to follow. Sometimes the smallest gesture can have this most impact.

Today’s challenge is to look around and see who you can bless, who you can share your love with. Doesn’t need to be showy or expensive or take a lot of time…just something that comes from your heart.

Mimi

Pomp and Circumstance

It was just a year ago we were celebrating Callan’s pre-school graduation. Now we have another preschool graduate in the family: Addison Reid.

We had the best time honoring Addie last week and reveling in her accomplishments. As part of the presentation, each child was asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Addie’s response? “A rock star!”

And to this Mimi, she already is.

This is just the first of many academic milestones to come into her life. And we will look forward to each one and join in the celebration of hard work and achievement.

To Addison:  We thank God for you, Addie. You bring great joy to your family and make our lives so full. You are precious in God’s sight and precious in ours as well.

Congratulations on your graduation. We know how very excited you are about entering Kindergarten. You really are a rock star!

We love you to Heaven and back!

Mimi

What? Me old? No way.

I saw the above sign recently and it really tickled me. In my mid-60s I’m reminded daily that my body is not as young as it once was. New aches and pains interfere with activities, age spots suddenly show up that weren’t there yesterday, and brain fog is constantly keeping me from finding my car keys.

Perhaps you can relate.

While I sometimes want to fight the inevitable, I also (most times) graciously accept help when offered. A discount on an attraction ticket? Sure, I’ll take it. A shorter distance to throw the disc in disc golf? Don’t mind if I do. And preference in sitting up front? Why certainly…if you insist.

That’s why the above sign hit my funny bone. Out walking for a bit of exercise, it appears that some places are letting you know ahead of time there’s an easier path reserved just for you.

But while life may offer accommodations, I don’t see that in God’s word. In fact, we are admonished to stay on course and finish well. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

So, let me encourage you today that you can make it. There’s no need to take the “old timers” trail. Keep on fighting, continue heading toward your finish line, and stay strong in your faith.

Mimi

Warm hospitality greeted us in Murphy, North Carolina.

There are lots of ways to spend Memorial Day weekend. Watching parades, honoring our Vets, doing nothing at all, catching up on your recorded television programs, making up for lost sleep, taking a short trip, etc. And taking a short trip is just what we did.

Traveling with friends, we drove to Murphy, North Carolina to see some other friends who live in the Bear  Paw lake community where it is secluded, wooded, quiet, and absolutely lovely. The photos here don’t do it justice.

While there we took a boat ride, did a little walking, went to several potluck suppers, met lots of friendly people, and partook in a few naps as well. There’s just something about sleeping with windows open and the birds singing that lulls you to sleep…even in the middle of the day.

What made this particular adventure so much fun was that we were all so completely taken care of by our hosts John and Marie. We were welcomed with open arms and we left rested up, with precious memories, and tears in our eyes.

There was not a thing we needed to do or bring to make our stay wonderful. All was provided down to packets containing toothbrushes and toothpaste in case we had forgotten ours. While we were invited to help ourselves in the kitchen, we were also soon to find out that John and Marie wanted us to enjoy a relaxing get-away so they took care of all the meals from food prep to cooking to cleaning up afterwards. And Marie is quite the cook. I think we all ate a little too much of her delicious meals!

It had been awhile since I was pampered to such an extent. And while my first instinct was to insist I wanted to help, I realized John and Marie were giving us a gift: of hospitality and relaxation. So, I graciously accepted everything they did for us and enjoyed a wonderful three days with people I love.

The Bible has much to say about hospitality and caring for others. John and Marie were shining examples.

  1. Love others. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also area to love one another” (John 13:34).
  2. Put others first. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
  3. Work tirelessly on behalf of others. “And let us not grow weary of doing good…as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Our Beautiful Hosts

It’s easy to be on the receiving end of hospitality, yet the giving end, though often joy-filled, can also be exhausting. But let’s rise to the Scriptural challenge to extend hospitality as we look for opportunities to serve others, to warmly invite them into our lives, to be willing to work without ceasing to meet their needs. And to show them the amazing, astounding love of Christ.

Mimi