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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

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Look up!

Don’t you love these pictures? They are, of course, from our recent encounter with the solar eclipse. No matter who used their special glasses to view this amazing sight, everyone struck the same pose.

But as awesome as it was to see the eclipse (though people in Clermont, FL only had a cloudy sky to view), the reminder to me when looking at this collage of eclipse viewers is that this is what our daily walk with the Lord should be.

Always looking up, looking not toward the sun but instead toward The Son…the One who loves beyond our understanding, the One who gives guidance, the One who has the answers, the One for whom our soul longs.

There was so much excitement for one relatively brief period of time…so much preparation, so much forethought. So much anticipation. Like me, many prepared only to be disappointed that the cloud cover interfered with any possibly viewing. And now we wait, as the next one won’t be until 2024.

But there is no disappointment for those who put their hope in Christ Jesus. And there’s no waiting either. He is with us every moment of every day. No special glasses needed. Just a broken and contrite heart reaching out towards the One who promises to always be with us, to the One who paid a sacrificial price to call us His own, to the One who is calling us His own.

This Labor Day, are you weary of your earthly efforts? Are you finding that all you work for still doesn’t satisfy the longing in your soul? Then I invite you to seek out the Christ, the Messiah, and discover He indeed is the Answer you are searching for.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

Mimi

Eternal Beauty

Recently I enjoyed lunch out with my hubby and my dad. Lunch itself was the reward after lots of errand running. The restaurant was barely busy which for us was just wonderful. We took our time and enjoyed being together. In honor of seeing my dad, I wore a bracelet and necklace set he and Mom had given me a few years ago.

About the time we dropped Dad back at his place, I realized my bracelet was gone. The necklace was there, but not the bracelet. I didn’t panic but made a thorough search (or two or three) of my purse and the car. I retraced my steps to Dad’s apartment twice. Still no bracelet.

When I began adding up all the places we had been it became overwhelming but Greg agreed we needed to go back to each one. Since I had also been to Publix and CVS which are fairly close to Dad, I called and spoke to someone at Publix who assured me the bracelet had not been turned in.

So, we began our hunt, starting at the farthest point and working our way back. After four stops we ended up back at Red Lobster but despite a thorough search we did not find the bracelet. We continued toward home with a stop at CVS where we verified the bracelet was not there. That left only one place and despite the earlier conversation with Publix, we decided to head over anyway so we could look through the aisles.

And sure enough, it was there. Someone had turned it in. And while the person answering the phone earlier didn’t know it was there, it was indeed safely in a drawer at the Customer Service counter. I had to laugh at the irony because Publix was closest to my Dad’s place but when the rep told me it wasn’t there an hour earlier we drove to all the other places first.

Would I have survived if I hadn’t found the bracelet? Certainly. After all, it’s just jewelry. Yes, a gift, yes from my parents, but it has no lasting eternal value. And while I’m delighted to have it back, I was reminded of the verses in 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Don’t depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes to make you look beautiful. Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special.

Don’t you love the way that’s written? And it’s exactly what I hope to show the world…not an outward beauty that can be fleeting but the inward beauty of belonging to God and resting in His assurance of peace and eternal life.

How about you? Where does your beauty come from?

Mimi

Prickly or Peachy…Being Perfected in God’s Love

One of the things I enjoy doing on my somewhat daily walks through my community is to observe: people, cars, landscaping, etc. I find it so fascinating to see how common things are used so differently from place to place.

On today’s walk I picked up yet another pine cone. We have many different pine trees and the pine cones are just as different. And they all appeal to me. But today I picked up a closed one and immediately was pricked with the unopened spikes. To add insult to that, sap smeared all over my hands that several washings with soap have yet to remove. Hmmppfff. Not so nice is it.

Compare that to my other two pretty, opened pine cones that I found last week. I was thinking how much nicer they are…and yet, there’s still something about the one I found today that draws me to it.

And finally, of course, there’s my pine cone wreath which I’ve shared with you before. A completely different use of them, that resulted in something unique and beautiful.

Like the pine cones, people are different. Some are prickly; they just rub you the wrong way. Others are sticky; their negativity is hard to remove and seems to stay with you. Some are open as if to say I’ll happily share my life with you. And others are somewhat open meaning they’ll be transparent to the degree they are comfortable with. Others seems to already have been put to a unique use and they look pretty and inviting.

And to throw in a little twist, I present you with a peach. Smooth, inviting, sweet-smelling, delicious inside, tender…all in all a perfect fruit. Of course, there is that large pit you have to deal with!

All that to say, God doesn’t call us to be loners. Despite our many differences, despite our personality traits that can be off-putting to others, despite that our outside may not in any way reflect what’s truly going on inside, we’re called together. To love one another. To counsel one another. To bear one another’s burdens. To rejoice with each other and to mourn with each other. Most of all, to love one another.

It may not be easy to throw your arms around a prickly pine cone of a person, but that hug is probably just what they need. And you may be rebuffed if you see a somewhat open pine cone of a person only to find out they’re willing to share only so much of their lives. And beware the peach. They may seem fine on the outside and you may be drawn to them but remember, even they have large pits inside they’re dealing with.

Let’s be willing to share our lives with each other in big ways, in small ways…but all with the love of Christ. Not only will it bless those other pine cones and peaches, but you’ll be blessed as well.

Dear friends, let us continuously love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

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

Maybe someone should have told me…

As you know, we recently traveled to New York for our twin nephews’ high school graduation. That travel involved an airplane and rental car.

The plane ride was a piece of cake. Beginning with the special tickets to skip the long security line right down to an uneventful arrival in Albany. Luggage in hand we arrived at the car rental counter to complete paperwork, then off we went on the short walk to get the car.

As we arrived at the kiosk a very nice young person (they all look young to me these days), pointed out my car. She didn’t look at the paperwork and told me not to worry about the inspection when I saw some minor scratches as all they cared about were misplaced bumpers and major damage. There were no instructions, safety check, or review of the car features.

I was driving that day as hubby had left his driver’s license at home. It was a struggle at the airport to get through Security without it so we decided we wouldn’t push our luck by having him do any driving while in New York.

Since the car was a Chrysler 200 which I was quite familiar with as it had been my Dad’s car, I thought “no problem.” Luggage stowed in truck. Check. People loaded in car. Check. Driver in place, engine on, car shifted into gear…check, check, NO CHECK. What?

Where was the gear shift? My hand immediately went to the middle. No shifter sticking up. Then it flew to the steering wheel. No shifter lever there either. Huh? I started looking everywhere and nothing was standing out as a gear shift.

I was about to go get the nice young lady to point it out to me when I looked down at the middle and saw a round knob. Could it be?

Yup, it was. And it had the PRNDL label to prove it. With hesitancy, I turned the knob to D and sure enough the car moved into gear and off I drove.

With such a different set up, I would have thought the car rental rep would have taken a few seconds to point it out to me. And that few seconds would have saved me a few minutes of angst looking for something that to me was anything but obvious. (I have to admit, it was odd to me the entire weekend. It just felt “wrong” to turn a knob to change gears.)

Sometimes life is like that. We’re expecting one thing to happen and something else takes place. We expect things to be normal and events to unfold just like they have been for years until the unexpected steps in and turns our world upside down.

When that happens, we can experience all sorts of possible outcomes. Here are just a few for thought: I can panic as I nearly did in looking for the shifting lever that I knew had to be there but seemed to be hiding; I can call upon someone to help as I was about to do; I can reason my way through which is what I ended up doing as I knew there had to be a way to shift gears.

We will always be confronted with new challenges; it’s just a part of our life experiences. But it’s how we respond to those challenges that will determine whether or not we walk in victory.

My gear shift story was silly but many of our daily challenges are difficult and life-altering. Let’s resolve NOT to panic. It does no good at all.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Is reason a solution? It can be and often it is.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:1-6)

And how about asking for help? That’s definitely a good one. Yes, if we ask from godly people. And most definitely YES if we seek God directly.

Listen, Lord, to my prayer; hear my cries for help. I call to you in times of trouble, because you answer my prayers. (Psalm 86:6)

As you can see, needing help isn’t the issue. The problem occurs when we put off seeking help or we don’t know where to find it.

Let’s learn to be quick to rely on God and seek His guidance about all else. Next time you find a gear knob instead of a gear shift, you can smile when you realize though it may have caught you off-guard, it certainly hasn’t caught your Heavenly Father off-guard.

Mimi

Finished…at last!

For the past few years, Greg and I have been trying to get more intentional about spending time together in God’s Word. Sometimes we have used a daily devotional with Bible readings and one time we even used a book dealing with depression and anxiety. Written from a Christian perspective, it had plenty of scripture along with suggested application of those verses.

We take turns reading out loud followed by joining hands for a time of prayer.

Beginning in January 2016, we decided to embark on a 61-day reading plan we downloaded from Bible Gateway. I’m happy to report we finally finished that 61-day plan…on June 19 THIS YEAR! Hmm, that’s 18 months, not 61 days.

What happened? Well, it turns out most of the days had up to 8 chapters assigned to them which we quickly discovered was simply too much. So, we worked at our own pace, allowing for the many interruptions life so readily provides. We even put it aside for a while and went back to reading a daily devotional.

But about a month ago we decided to hunker down and complete the task. At times, I was convinced it would be better to quit and find a new reading plan, yet somehow that didn’t seem right. So, we made the decision to finish strong and that’s just what we did. But I have to say, it sure felt good when we completed the task last night.

Over the years I’ve canvassed many fellow believers, especially married couples, as to how they delved into God’s Word. And the answers were as varied as the people. Dissatisfied with my own efforts, I think I was looking for one magic plan, thinking that whatever method most people used must surely be the right one.

What I discovered is that it doesn’t really matter how you spend time with in God’s Word, it’s just important that you do. Armed with that realization I could relax my efforts to “do it right” and instead enjoy time with my hubby and my Lord. We found what works for us and it’s been so enjoyable.

What’s next? We’re still figuring that out. We may do an organized Bible study or go back to a daily devotional. But until we decide, we’ll continue to hold hands and pray for ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors and friends, and our country. Together we’ll seek God to continue His work in us as He changes us into His image.

Maybe you’re like we were: floundering, unsure what the perfect method is, shy about reading or praying out loud with your spouse or someone else. My encouragement to you is to let all that go. Ask God to direct you and then enjoy the discovery process as you research various methods of study.

In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to visit this website and listen in on the God Speaking series with Anne Graham Lotz.

She has several 10-day series consisting of 40-minute lightly dramatized Bible readings. You can listen in each day for the entire 40 minutes or split it up like Greg and I did, taking about 15 days to complete it. I must say, it was excellent. The dramatized version was so engaging that we found ourselves hanging on every word as it was read.

Perhaps you have found other methods that work for you. If so, please hit reply and leave a comment. What you share just may be what someone else will connect with.

Love to all.

Mimi