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Time to stop and smell the roses.

April 2, 2018

Birthdays galore.

In our family, we experience many birthdays close to each other: Christmas time…Greg and me. Late Jan-early Feb: son and son-in-law, March: daughter, sister-in-law, Mom, daughter-in-law, brother followed by early April: grandson Callan and sister-in-law.

Whew! If you’re not careful, you’ll completely miss one in the busyness of life.

Life can get crazy busy.

In order to NOT miss a birthday or appointment or something on my to-do list, I rely heavily on all my calendars being in sync. This means my Outlook calendar must match my phone’s calendar because I’ll be printing it and placing it on the refrigerator. And if that paper calendar doesn’t match with my phone, something is sure to get missed.

First thing every morning, Greg gets up and looks at the paper calendar. I, on the other hand, rely mostly on the iPhone calendar and its reminder system, counting on a ding to alert me each time I need to do something. To be sure it all gets done, I also keep a handwritten list on my kitchen counter that glares at me until the last item is checked off and the list can be crumpled and thrown away.

Take time to smell the roses.

We all understand the meaning of the expression and encouragement to take time to smell the roses. But many times, we do the exact opposite. I certainly do. I can get completely caught up in the to-do list and can miss the small moments, the wonderful moments that surround us all the time…the smell-the-roses moments presented throughout our days.

In being sure I buy cards, find the perfect gift, arrange a visit to the birthday person, prepare a special cake, etc., I can lose the joy of the occasion which is to honor and celebrate someone I care for deeply.

In fact, we can do that with anything: holidays meant for family and fun can become a chore because of the enormous amount of preparation needed to ensure a perfect event; having friends or family visit in your home can lose it’s joy when you pressure yourself to have it spotlessly clean; vacations filled with wonder and discovery can get bogged down by endless research to be sure you visit all the best places.

What to do?

S-l-o-w  d-o-w-n. That’s it. Or at least, it’s part of it. And it’s so very hard to do. While on our hamster wheels of life, we need to slow down to appreciate people important to us, to enjoy the things and people God has placed in our lives and in our care, to marvel at His amazing creation.

Remember…happiness is often found in the little things, in the everyday things, in the ordinary things of life.

The older I get, the more I’m aware of not wanting to lose the moment. To-do lists are a part of my nature and being organized enables me to function better. But I’m more determined than ever to slow down and finally start smelling those beautiful roses God has grown all around me.

Mimi

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Look out!

A wonderful friend, faithful blog reader, and frequent blog commenter, recently shared some laughable pictures, suggesting I might be able to do something with them in an upcoming Mondays With Mimi post. And boy, was he right!

Out of all the pictures, this is the one I loved the most. Just look at this industrious fellow painting his walls. Concentrating as he “cuts in” neatly where the ceiling meets the wall; he’s ever so careful to create a straight line so the end result is just perfect. Taking his time. Being fastidious. Doing a job he and everyone will be proud of.

What could be wrong with that?

Well…everything, if he’s doing it like this!

I can so relate to his circumstance. Someone recently remarked that I’m like a hummingbird, flitting around doing this and that. I think that person is correct in a way. While I can certainly waste time with the best of them, when working, I make my list, going through it one by one, and so enjoy getting things accomplished and checking off each and every entry until I’m finished.

There’s a problem with that?

Oh yes, there can be big time problems with working like that. Often, in my hurry-up way to get things done, I’ll skip common sense (like the man above) to save time or effort. I’ll throw caution to the wind, or safety to the skies, and proceed. I’ve been known to climb on counters to clean a top kitchen cabinet shelf, use a long handled wooden spoon to coax something off that same tall shelf, tipping it over so it will fall (hopefully) right into my waiting hands. I’ve used rolling office chairs to reach something up high, climbed on a bed to better reach an area of cobwebs.

You catch my drift.

Rather than take the time to find the appropriate ladder in the garage (which would take all of one minute!!!), I just find whatever’s handy and get to work. But safety? Oh no, my friend. That’s a forgotten word.

So, while I laugh at the absurdity of the painter standing on an open door to reach the ceiling, I can still relate. It’s comical to see his silliness, but at the same time breath-holding knowing it could lead to injury.

Even our guidebook, the Bible, speaks directly to such foolishness in Proverbs 14:16. “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.”

Big gulp. Boy, that has me pegged.

Out of balance? Time to slow down.

How about you? Ever find yourself in a similar position? Taking short cuts, throwing caution to the wind, figuring it will all work out in the end? As one who often operates in the extreme of over-planning, I can lose out on the joy of spontaneity. So, I’m talking about balance here.

In the long run, some things have no eternal value, such as painting a wall, choosing a color for your new car, deciding where to vacation. But for the things that matter, such as relationships, my prayer (and goal) is to never lose the moment to the planning for the moment.

What do I mean?

If my life is over-planned and I’m unable to put those plans aside, then I might miss out on spontaneous moments of doing hair and makeup with my granddaughters or making finger shadows on the ceilings with my grandsons. I might miss getting together with a neighbor over (gasp) store-bought cookies thinking the visit won’t be the same if I can’t offer fresh-baked ones. And I could miss out on one-on-one time with the hubster if I’m unwilling to put down the laundry and just take a ride to nowhere with him.

You see what I’m saying?

There is not a thing wrong with planning. And in the case of the above painter, better planning would have been a great idea. But let’s not let our methodical planning ever get in the way of relationships. In the end, a completed to-do list is just that. But time spent with others can truly have eternal value.

Let me know what you think? Can you relate?

Mimi

So proud of my husband.

Look at my brave guy. It’s been about 28 years since Greg has tried a brussel sprout. Last time was when we had a Russian immigrant living with us for several months. Another church member who spoke fluent Russian was helping us communicate with Lydia, something we were so thankful for. He and his wife invited us to dinner where they served some typically Russian food.

First up was borscht. While Greg will loudly complain about it, it really wasn’t that bad. Just a different kind of soup. But following that, we were served the biggest bowl of brussel sprouts we had ever seen. There must have been hundreds in that bowl and yet there were only 5 adults at the table.

Wanting to be polite we ate those little cabbagy looking things. Eeww. Still sends shivers down my spine.

In any case, despite hearing from others that roasted brussel sprouts are quite delicious, neither Greg or I have eaten them since.

However, this weekend our precious daughter-in-law served them to us with dinner. I was determined to try and like them. And I did. But Greg was going to take a pass, remembering vividly the giant bowl of them from 28 years ago. But he girded himself with resolve and not only did he eat one…he ate all that were served! Way to go Greg.

Did he like them? No. Nope. Not at all. Will he eat them again? Don’t count on it. But at least he tried.

We often form conclusions about things without much knowledge. Like the brussel sprouts, it may be a new food we won’t try because it looks strange or has a funny name. It might be a social situation we pass up simply because we get anxious about meeting new people and wondering what we’ll talk about with them.

With our kids or grandkids, we urge them on as they try new things but as adults we often find the we give ourselves permission to sit back and not face some of these new challenges…mostly because of fear of the unknown.

And what a shame that is. We actually can end up on the losing end when we let caution rule supreme. Yes, we definitely need to use the wisdom of our years and good old common sense to help guide our choices. And caution can be a great partner in helping make those decisions but if we let it rule simply because we’d rather stay in our comfort zones, then we may end up missing out on a whole world of wonderfulness just waiting to be discovered.

So I hope I continue trying new things, stretching my wings, and making new discoveries. I hope I can set a good example for my kids and grandkids as I face new challenges. And you can be sure I’ll share the results with you.

How about you? Tried anything new lately? A food? An sport? A new genre of music? Please share; I’d love to hear all about it.

Mimi

Life can be so puzzling.

Greg and I are working on a particularly challenging puzzle (thanks Auleen and Ward!). Because it’s not rectangular, the edge took much longer than usual to put together. Days and days in fact. Even at that, we were still missing some pieces so began working the puzzle in other areas, knowing that at some point those missing pieces would show up. And they did…about five days later!

You need to work the puzzle.

Puzzles come packed in a box. The pieces are mostly mixed up. When you empty the box onto the table it looks like a mess. Before you can begin, you need to turn over each piece. Then comes the separation into edge pieces, corners, and the remaining 940 pieces.

Work typically begins on the edge, then on particular areas that are easily identified. People have different methods for assembling the 1000 pieces but no matter how that is accomplished, it’s often quite awhile before what you’re working on begins to resemble the picture on the box.

There are often pieces all over the place, some are stuck together in the wrong way, sometimes you look and look but can’t find a particular piece. In fact, it can be quite “puzzling.”

Our lives often resemble puzzles.

Our lives often look like that as well. God has an absolutely beautiful picture in His mind of what we will look like. And He has provided every single thing we will need to be transformed into that image, or should I say His image.

At times we feel like we are missing pieces as confusion about decisions set in. We may feel upside down in distressing situations because we seem to not be able to make sense of what’s happening. Maybe some parts of our lives are indeed in good shape, fitting together, and looking good to us and others, while other parts continue to remain mixed-up.

Not every puzzle goes together quickly or easily. Many require hard work and a real commitment of time and perseverance. When life feels like a crazy, mixed-up, difficult puzzle, that’s the time to press in and lean on God. It’s the time to seek Him for direction. And it’s the time to trust and rest in Him.

In John 13:7, during what we call the last supper, Jesus remarked to his disciples, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” His disciples couldn’t understand why Jesus was washing their feet. And they certainly couldn’t understand the cruel death soon to follow. They would need to completely trust in the One who was about to give His life for them.

Similarly, we don’t always understand life’s circumstances. Instead, like the disciples, we choose to trust in the One who gives us this life and promises it will be more abundant than we can ever imagine (John 10:10).

The amazing end result.

No, we may not have a puzzle box lid showing the gorgeous picture of what God is doing in our lives, but we can be assured that God knows exactly what He’s doing. And the end result is going to be amazing!

Mimi

Oh, the stink!

While opening the pantry the other day, I bent over to look on the bottom shelf when wham! I was hit with a stink so bad it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I knew that smell. No identification needed other than the familiar and very nasty odor. A rotten potato (or two).

Easy enough to deal with, too. I pulled out my basket of potatoes and tossed them in the sink. If you look at the top picture quickly it might appear as if all is well. But zoom in (see the second pic) and you’ll see one tiny one-inch potato looking kind of smushed. Yup, that was the one. That very small tater caused so much stink in my pantry, I had to air out the closet and wash off the rest of the potatoes just to remove it. (And, of course, I tossed out the offending one in the process!)

Being Just a Little “Off”

It’s such a clear illustration of how just getting a little “off” in our Christian walk can affect absolutely everything. Allowing in just a little of the world or allowing just a little sin taints our thoughts and actions. It may be barely noticeable at first, like the smashed potato. But as we continue to allow what shouldn’t be there to remain and fester and decompose, soon enough the stink of what we’ve allowed becomes noticeable. And then before we know it, wham! It takes over and covers up all the good to the point that all we or others are aware of is that which stinketh (my own King James emphasis).

The potato stink didn’t appear overnight. It kind of snuck up. Same with sin. It often makes a subtle entrance, weaving its way right into our lives. Sometimes we are unaware and because so, we do nothing about it.

Sometimes we are quite aware that we should be standing clear, yet because we don’t feel God’s judgment at the moment or the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we can end up thinking it’s no big deal so we do nothing. Until the stench becomes so bad that it forces an action on our part.

I believe at other times we begin to be aware of the smell but aren’t ready or willing to turn away. We try to cover it up, make it look pretty, pretend it’s not as bad as it seems. With sin, we may end up ignoring the Holy Spirit trying to get us to turn away from the sin and instead of running from it, we end up embracing it, incorporating it into our lives. At times, even defending it and making excuses for its presence or why we accept it.

The deep sorrow here is that our hearts can then become hardened. We may stubbornly refuse to deal with the sin. We may become so dependent on it we start believing the enemy’s lies that it needs to remain. Or we believe the lies that say there’s no way to overcome, forgetting that while we may be unable, there is One who is more than able.

None of us intentionally wants to keep the stink. We know it keeps us separated from our heavenly Father. We know it’s wrong. And we know it’s detrimental for our Christian walk.

So dear friends, while we know there’s always hope and help in overcoming sin, perhaps the best response is to never allow sin to take root in our lives. Ask daily for the Holy Spirit to help us be aware and watchful. Repent sincerely when sin is pointed out. Humbly present ourselves before our Lord, asking Him to reveal any wicked way so it can be quickly addressed.

What to do?

  1. Recognize or acknowledge the sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
  2. Repent of the sin. This means to turn away from it, leave it behind, have nothing to do with it.  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
  3. Receive God’s forgiveness. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
  4. Remember that in this world, trouble is here to stay. But we are in relationship with the One who has overcome and his power is available for us as well. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  5. Rejoice in God that He has provided a way past the sin. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Mimi

Life sure is messy.

Do you ever think to yourself, “Boy, my life is a mess?”

I sure do. And just like the above picture of my messy computer wires, right now, I’m really feeling it. While my own life is relatively smooth (for the moment), I have countless friends whose lives seem to be falling apart: sickness, legal trouble, family issues, broken relationships. You name it, and I seem to know someone who is experiencing it big time.

As a friend, as I’ve stated before, I always vote for the trouble to disappear. But as a true friend, I pray for others and try to help in any way I can. However most times, there’s no fancy dessert, offer to clean a house, or even a monetary gift that will bring about the desired change or answer to prayer.

So, while I consistently pray for my family and friends, I also actively have to trust that God is in complete control and knows what He’s doing. He loves them more than I do and is always after our hearts and the big picture. So thankfully He is completely trustworthy, even when things seem dark.

Whether your life is a mess right now or you know someone else who is experiencing tragedy, don’t give up the fight. Find ways to serve them but your prayers are mighty and so very important. Often the one in the middle of the fight is so overwhelmed they can’t pray as they should; but that’s where you come in. You can.

So, stand firm on their behalf, and pray, pray, pray.

Trust in the Lord forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaish 26:4)

Mimi

Take comfort: the Lord is your Shepherd

I discovered the above pic around Christmas time and it was very poignant. I think we often miss our loved ones a little bit more during holidays.

I lost my mom in 2016 and my dear friend lost her parents one year apart, one in 2016 and one in 2017. Both near Christmas. And while the first Christmas or two are no doubt filled with sorrow, my hope is that future Christmases for her are sweet with wonderful memories.

I hope the same for me as well.

And while I certainly can’t speak for Heaven and cannot attest to what our loved ones there are doing at any time or capable of doing, it really is a nice thought to look at the sky, see the stars and think maybe at that time they are whispering reassurances that they are fine.

And if they indeed are in Heaven, then we have great assurance that they are not only fine, but more than fine. They’re in the presence of the One whose beauty is beyond description…whose love for us is beyond understanding…and whose very essence is (in the words of the song) absolutely more than wonderful.

My heart goes out to those who have recently lost someone they love. Most times the pain of the loss begins to fade, at least with time it can. But for those whose pain is fresh and raw, may you find comfort in our wonderful Lord, experience His sweet peace, and rest in His arms of love.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 NLT)

Mimi