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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

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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

Thankful, grateful, and truly blessed!

For months, maybe even closer to a year, I’ve been feeling very, very grateful. Just in general. For everything. So, when I came upon this piece of artwork, I knew it needed to be in my house… on a wall where Greg and I would see…it all day long.

I assume experiencing these feelings has to do with getting older and understanding more each day what’s really important.

I see pictures of my grandkids, and overcome with love for them, experience thankfulness to God for the blessing they are in my life.

At meals I’m so very grateful for food. For the ability to go to the store and just buy whatever I want. For having a full pantry. For not having to worry about where my next meal will come from or if I will even have one.

After Greg’s recent experience with blood clots and pulmonary embolisms, I feel blessed. Truly blessed. Blessed that despite having very few symptoms, the doctor so quickly got us to the hospital. Blessed that there was a procedure to help him recover quicker. And blessed that a medication taken regularly for the rest of his life will ensure these clots never again cause a threat to his health and life.

And, of course, there’s the stuff. I have stuff…some of it I need, some I think I need, and some I don’t need at all, but still I have it.

I have not one, but two cars in my driveway. I live in a house with heat and air conditioning. I have clothes in my closet. My attic has suitcases that are used to take trips to visit family and to see places I’ve never seen before.

Churches surround and offer me my own choice of where to worship my Lord.

And every day I wake to new possibilities.

Indeed… God has been good to me. So merciful. So kind.

But even without health, or stuff, or a nearby church, I would feel just as thankful, just as grateful, and just as truly blessed.

Why? Because I have Jesus but more importantly, because He has me. For all that He’s provided through His life, through His death, and through His resurrection…I am thankful. I am grateful. And I am indeed…truly, truly blessed.

How about you? What are you grateful for today?

Mimi

Rush, rush…rushing to history!

As grandparents, we are often on the lookout for creative ways to be more involved in the lives of our grands. Recently, I’ve embarked on an adventure that’s both creative and enables me to spend more time with my grandsons. Reading a book each night using my Facetime app.

This isn’t necessarily an original idea, but it’s been so much fun I thought I’d share it with you.

Our first book is Book 1 in the Rush Limbaugh history series for kids, “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.” From his forward: “(This country) is a land built on true freedom and individual liberty and it defends both around the world. The role of the United States is to encourage individuals to be the best that they can be, to try to improve their lives, reach their goals, and make their dreams come true.”

What a great way to teach history and the truth of our country’s foundation, through historical fiction with adventurous kids, an amazing current day history teacher, a talking horse, and the ability to time travel (which is always preceded by the words “Rush, rush…rushing to history”).

The chapters are long, so I divide them into 2-3 readable segments of 15-20 minutes each. Konnor typically initiates the Facetime call and while holding the phone in one hand, and the book in the other I begin reading.

To make it as enjoyable as possible, I use acting skills to try to create memorable characters. Along the way I’ll stop and ask for word definitions or I’ll explain things I believe the boys might not understand such as the difference between a wharf and a pier (I had to look it up). At the beginning of each reading, I either review what happened previously or ask Konnor for the recap.

While reading, I’ll also be sure to point the camera on the many pictures in the book which are both real photos as well as illustrations, just like you would if I were reading a book to them in person.

Our typical time to read is bedtime which is just perfect! What kid doesn’t want a bedtime story. And what grandma doesn’t love that she’s not only sharing a story but history as well.

It’s just another way to connect with my boys. And when I see the girls this weekend, I’ll see if they would like to do something similar, although I’m sure it will be more along the lines of princesses or Disney characters.

I love finding creative ways to connect with and be involved in the lives of my sweet grandkids. Have any of your own thoughts? Feel free to share them by replying to this post.

Mimi

Zoe turns 4!

Just recently we spent the weekend with our son and his family to celebrate our granddaughter Zoe’s fourth birthday.

After our encounter with Hurricane Irma and Greg’s recent hospitalization for blood clots, it was wonderful to get to experience such an enjoyable occasion.

Like all our grands, Zoe has her own unique God-given personality. She is a giggle-filled bundle of non-stop joy. We know a picture paints a thousand words so I wish I had a picture of every mood, expression, and reaction Zoe exhibited because those pictures would be a fantastic way to share with you the pure delight she brings. But the composite above will have to do.

We watched Zoe and her sister perform Disney tunes for us from their make-shift stage. Zoe acted out every nuance using her whole body and face to fully express each song’s meaning. Here’s a 10-second clip of our energetic granddaughter for your viewing pleasure. (The background laugh is her Mimi who was tickled pink watching her!)

Zoe is creative in her play time, enjoys school, is loving to all her stuffed animals and dolls, and wants to do everything her big sister Addison does. She adores her parents and often can be found using her daddy as her personal jungle gym!

Time moves along so quickly; I don’t want to miss a single minute of this precious life. I want to see everything through her eyes of wide-eyed wonder. I want to experience her kind of joy that knows no bounds. I also want to protect her from the world and have her keep her innocence as long as possible.

Who knew when she was born just how appropriate her name would be. In the Greek, Zoe means life. And our little Zoe is completely filled and overflowing with life!

Happy 4th birthday sweet girl. Your Mimi loves you to Heaven and back!

Mimi

 

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

Somebody just turned 9 last week.

I became a grandma on August 8, 2008 when Konnor Finn was born. But when he started talking I became Mimi…a name I love to be called.

Last week was Konnor’s 9th birthday and what a day it was. He awoke to birthday love notes throughout the house, decorations galore, and a table filled with gifts and cards (one especially “sweet” gift was his Skittles shirt created for him by his brother Callan). His day began with a sprinkle donut, included an early stop to Toys R Us to spend that birthday money, then a trip to the wax museum, and a colossal “ice cream sandwich” that was enough for everyone to share. The fun continued all day as he enjoyed each gift and being the honored Birthday Boy.

     

I know you can all relate in how quickly those 9 years flew by. He was just a tiny little baby. And while we could see family resemblances, beyond that we all wondered about his future: what kind of personality he would have, what talents and tendencies he would display, his interests, whether he would be tall like his dad, if he would have an interest in sports or music, etc.

Nine years later we have a really good idea. Konnor is a high energy kid who loves to learn. Give him a fact and he’ll remember it forever. He is very mechanically inclined and most of his toys center on mechanics in one form or another: Legos, anything you can build, magnets, science experiments, RC cars. He can be extremely focused when something draws his attention such as his recent 6-hour “build” of a Lego pinball machine. Gathering his Legos, he found a video, followed it and figured out not only how the outside should look, but how the inside needed to function so the pinball machine would actually work. And it does; beautifully!

Not being mechanically inclined myself, I find this trait in Konnor amazing. I can follow a recipe or a set of directions, but to take the time to figure out how something works and spend the untold hours putting it together, sometimes doing things over and over again to make that happen…well, that is just about beyond me. But it’s not beyond our Konnor Finn.

That determination and ability to dig in to accomplish something you put your mind to will serve Konnor well and this Mimi is excited to see where it will lead in Konnor’s future.

Being a mom to my two wonderful kids was fulfilling and fun. I loved watching them learn each day and discover who they were, what they could accomplish and all about our amazing world. As a grandma, I get to enjoy it all over again, and I find I love it just as much…maybe more. Because this time I get to watch my adult kids have the same sense of wonder as they raise their children and observe them grow and change as they become who God created them to be.

Happy birthday, my precious Konnor. I love you to Heaven and back!

Mimi