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I love you to Heaven and back.

I don’t know how many, if any, caught how I ended last week’s Mimi story. At the very end, I told my dad “I love you to Heaven and back.” I sure do!

That phrase “I love you to Heaven and back” has been a part of most of my life. My mom used to say it to me often and I said over and over to my own kids while they were growing up. And as Mimi to my grands, it’s a phrase I often say to them as well. In fact, it’s so meaningful to me, I use it whenever I want to express my profound love for my grown children as well.

It’s a family thing.

A lot of families have sayings, traditions, rituals that they have incorporated into their everyday lives. It’s part of what cements their family together. They become almost sacred in that whenever used it’s a very special family moment.

We often think of family traditions occurring at Christmas when the same star is placed on top of the tree by the oldest (or youngest) child each year. An advent calendar is eagerly opened each day by the children. And let us not forget Elf on a Shelf!

What’s so special about a saying or tradition?

But family rituals and traditions happen every day and they hold a special place in our hearts because they evoke a memory or a wonderful feeling. Because my mom so often told me “I love you to Heaven and back,” I go out of my way to say it to family members because it expresses my unending love for them.

Repeating it also brings up sweet memories of my own mom saying it to me.

And when I say it to my grands, I’m instilling in them that same sense of boundless love, family, and tradition within them.

I would love to have you share some of your own family traditions or meaningful things you say to each other to express your love or appreciation.

Thanks for reading, and remember…I love you all to Heaven and back!

Mimi

p.s. Happy birthday to my very beautiful (inside and out) niece Jacquie!

Family: it’s everything!

Busy, busy, busy over here. And for a very good reason: family.

My first cousin arrived Tuesday, followed by my brother and his wife on Wednesday. My dad has also been here each day. And on Saturday, daughter Kate and family joined in as well. A rousing corn hole competition ensued with Greg and son-in-law Chris dominating. (Greg made a last minute decision to play in the garage because of rain interference.) The only disappointment was that son Tim and family couldn’t be a part of Saturday’s ultimate family day.

Being busy means I haven’t written anything this week to share with you. Instead my heart has been full just enjoying loved ones I don’t get to see often enough. And instead of writing a Mimi post, I’m writing memories in my heart.

What are some of your favorite family memories?

Mimi

His legacy lives on…

In the past, I’ve shared a few posts from Joshua Rogers, whose blog is entitled “Finding God in the ordinary.” He’s a wonderful writer but more importantly using every day happenings, he is able to point to God in simple, yet often profound ways.

On Facebook, he recently shared the obituary of Ken Fuson, a man I had never heard of. Typically, I would not take the time to read something like this, but because it was a post from Joshua, and based on some of the comments, I decided to read on. And boy, am I glad I did!

It’s a bit of a long obituary but it reads quickly because you are captured from the start. It’s witty, intriguing, encouraging, uplifting, somber and written by Ken himself before his death. I rarely comment on Facebook posts, especially about someone I don’t know. But after reading this, I just had to leave my thoughts: Never heard of him but can’t wait to meet him in heaven. This was amazing and had me crying. I’m sharing it on my own blog. One word says it. Wow.

I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.

KEN’S OBITUARY

Love, Mimi

Out with the old and in with the new!

(Originally published December 30, 2015)

What’s Mimi up to with those trash cans? you might be thinking. Well, Orange County, Florida recently switched things up a bit. Beginning January 1 we go from twice weekly trash pick-up with regular old trash cans to once weekly pick-ups in huge trash cans on wheels.

Change is not always easy…

…and Orange County has been trying their best to get us ready. Lots of info came our way throughout the fall along with two new rolling containers (one for trash, one for recycling). Each household has received specific instructions on exactly how and when to use them, too.

So we’re in for some change: new pick-up days, larger containers that hold a lot of stuff (yay) but that also take up a lot of room in the garage (boo), and while currently a green container holds recyclables, the new ones are blue. (I betcha lots of recyclables are going to end up in the wrong container for a while.)

There’s been a little griping here and there but no doubt things will work themselves out over time and soon the old ways will fade away, replaced by the new system.

At the start of the new year, some of us may be desperately looking for something new—a new adventure, a new job, a fresh start while others may be lamenting change and just as desperate to hold on to the familiar.

On any given day I may lay claim to any of the above thoughts but as Greek philosopher Heraclitus states “There is nothing permanent except change.” While I can argue that some things don’t change such as God’s love and provision for us, his statement with a little tongue in cheek drives home a good point.

My prayer.

So, my prayer for the coming year is that I will treasure what has been a blessing in my life, hold tight to precious memories, and at the same time I will boldly and courageously accept new challenges and look forward to what God has in store.

Blessings and love to all.

Mimi

Jesus, where are you?

Christmas 1991. If you ask me to tell you something about that particular Christmas, I’ll come up empty. The best I can do is use my kids as a reference and see if that triggers any memories.

Tim was 12 and Kate 11. That means 5th and 6th grades. Hmm, what else? I’m sure I can pull out pictures which will jog some memories. But no matter what job I held, no matter what church we attended, and no matter what was going on in the world, it must have been a crazy busy year. And it must have really gotten to me.

Why you ask?

Because I wrote a poem. I found myself wide awake in the middle of the night adding more and more things to my mental to-do list…the Christmas to-do list. The list that would ensure Christmas would be perfect for all my loved ones.

This list was supposed to keep me on track and stress-free. Instead, the opposite happened. I became filled with stress over how much there seemed to do. And in the wee hours of that morning, after this realization struck me, another reality presented itself ever so clearly. In the middle of trying so hard to have a wonderful Christmas for everyone, I had completely missed the reason for the holiday…Jesus.

Jesus was nowhere to be found.

Shopping, baking, concerts, get-togethers all took up time. They became the centerpiece of all my efforts. I was stressed out, tired, melancholy, and certainly not enjoying this beautiful time of year. I didn’t even understand why I was feeling this way. But for some reason, I put a pen in my hand and began writing. I don’t think I had written a poem since grade school. But I wrote and wrote and what you see below is what I wrote that night in 1991.

I poured my heart out. I had been so busy, that I took my eyes off of Jesus, the one who gave me new life. The one I was supposed to be celebrating. With tears streaming down my face, I realized I was the problem. Jesus wasn’t missing. I had left him out.

I learned a lot that night.

Christmases are not always perfect. And I don’t always do the best job at keeping Jesus at the center. But I learned that it’s up to me to find him. And the truth is that he’s right there. I had just covered him up with my to-do list. Once I could set it aside, I was able to uncover the greatest gift of all.

My prayer for you this year, is the one I have for me and my family as well: that amidst the Christmas joy we share with others, we will clearly be able to experience the joy of Jesus.

Jesus, Where Are You?

In the still of the night my mind cluttered with thoughts

Of the approaching season and the gifts to be bought.

There are lists to be made and things to be done,

Never enough time—certainly no fun.

 

Jumbled thoughts steal my time and my plans go awry.

I meant to be with You Lord—I did! my heart cries.

Yet somehow the busy-ness and crowds came right in

And took up the space where You should have been.

 

“Jesus, where are you?” my heart longs to shout.

Do You have anything to do with all that’s about?

We say it’s because of You that we rush and we spend

Vast amounts of money, much more than we intend.

 

A gift for Sally and Susan and John.

One more for Mary and Alice and Tom.

Quick bake a cookie, trim a tree, tie a bow.

Christmas will be here before you know.

 

Christmas day dawns, everything is all set.

The presents are bought—wrapped all pretty and yet

As I look through each room and the preparations I’ve done.

There’s just one thing still missing—Jesus, God’s Son!

 

It seems I made time for the pies, gifts, and friends.

But what it boils down to right in the end

In the midst of the rush and the gifts and the carols

I left out the One whose birth angels herald.

 

It is this One who the season should be about.

Let’s forget all the rest and His praises shout!

Yes, the presents are fine and the food is great, too,

But Jesus was born—for me and for you!

 

Let’s remember His birth at Christmas this year

Let’s remember God’s gift to us—Jesus is here!

Let’s not get caught up in all the ways of the Earth

But rejoice that in Jesus we have second birth!

Mimi

Dealing with a puzzling situation.

As you know, the hubster and I really enjoy working on jigsaw puzzles. They’re relaxing, fun, use parts of our brains we want to keep active, and they often teach us lessons, which I’ve shared with you in the past.

Today, another lesson stared me in the face, so I’m sharing it with you.

Notice anything?

We finished the top puzzle just before Thanksgiving. Extra-large pieces, vibrant colors, and a beautiful end result. Of course, if you zoom in you might be able to see that two pieces were missing from this previously new, unopened box. Despite that, we pressed on and really enjoyed ourselves with the remaining 998 pieces! (Note: The manufacturer offered great customer service and a new one will soon be mailed to us.)

Having completed that one, it was time to move on to our annual Christmas puzzle.

Notice the difference between the two rows? The top pieces are from the Thanksgiving puzzle. Normal pieces shaped as you would expect them to be shaped. But when we opened the Christmas puzzle, the first thing we noticed was how tiny the pieces were.

But even more than the size of the pieces were the shapes. They’re crazy. There’s not a good way to sort them, other than by color. And they take much longer to fit together since the odd shapes mean you have to be very precise in finding the correct piece it connects to.

Needless to say, this puzzle requires longer work times, much patience, lots of Christmas music in the background, and frequent breaks for energy snacks. While it will definitely be completed in a week or less, it’s much more time-consuming than the last one.

The Lesson

So, what’s the lesson in all this? It’s to remind us that sometimes life can get messy. And if we’re not prepared for that messiness, it can turn our worlds upside down and possibly make us doubt God.

After walking through a predictable, stable period of time, if we find ourselves confronted with something unexpected, we may feel out of balance. And feeling out of balance may lead to inaction as we become unsure of decisions. Despair at being stagnant may even set in. And then instead of running to God, we may turn inward instead, becoming paralyzed and unable to have a godly perspective.

When I saw those crazy puzzle shapes in the Christmas puzzle, I wanted to pack up the pieces and donate the puzzle to a charity—letting someone else deal with it. But instead, I worked the edge pieces, then Greg started sorting by color. Soon, we had three birds and a big part of the snowman. And that seemed to spur us on to continue, even if we’re at a slower pace than with our prior puzzle.

Now, if only I can remember this…

Those crazy puzzle pieces actually do more to remind me of God’s trustworthiness, than the traditional pieces do. They remind me there’s still a beautiful picture being created and that the journey, even when difficult, will be worth it.

When confronted with less than ideal circumstances, or unexpected events, that’s the time to dig in. That’s the time to turn our focus to God, asking for His perspective, His wisdom. Realizing we can still completely trust God—that He’s in control and that this will be used for our good (Romans 8:28).

If life has you puzzled at the moment, if the pieces no longer seem to fit together in order, don’t despair. Instead, turn to God, the author and finisher of your life. His perspective is all that matters. Trust that things will work out as you abide in Christ. Yes, it might not happen immediately, but know that the One who created you, has every intention of finishing what He started. And though this present circumstance may have caught you off-guard, it definitely hasn’t caught Him off-guard.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Let’s Pray

Father, I admit I like it better when my life is more orderly. But I know in my journey to becoming more like you, there will be times life takes turns I’m not expecting. In those times, may I run to You for Your comfort, Your reassurance, Your love, and Your affirmation. Amen.

Mimi

A penguin project to brighten your day.

Each year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my loved ones come to our house where we all enjoy our annual Family Fun Craft Day (FFCD).

It entails crafting, sharing a meal, whiffle baseball or soccer in the backyard, cornhole, and often times a swim in the community pool. Even Poppy, our family’s patriarch at age 93, joins in the fun and at day’s end we finish by decorating his apartment door in his nearby residence.

The crafts are up to me and since I’m not a crafty person by nature, it’s often a bit of trial and error. Ideas are gathered, supplies purchased, and a week or two prior to FFCD, Greg will assemble the men’s project while I tackle the ladies’—just to be sure we have everything we need and to figure out if the proposed crafts actually are doable.

This year for the men: Project Penguin

The men this year are making a light bulb penguin. I’ve seen these for years and it turns out they’re relatively easy to make. And if you know you’re going to be making them, just save your burned-out traditional light bulbs throughout the year and you can cross that item off the supply list. Pictures and instructions are below. Give them a try and be sure to let me know how they turn out. (You can attach a hanging cord to turn them into tree ornaments or skip the cord and make them in several sizes to display as a penguin family. The ones we made this year are rather traditional, but you can get creative with different hats or outfits. Have fun!)

And be sure to share your own family Christmas traditions in the comment section below.

Light Bulb Penguins

Brought to you courtesy of: 66 Craft Happy Summer on YouTube (https://youtu.be/7HrmbGBOEMA)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Light bulb
  • Wooden (or cardboard) heart for feet (a little bigger than 1” square)
  • Red pom-pom (1)
  • Googly eyes (2)
  • Orange triangle for nose (we made ours out of felt)
  • Glue gun/glue
  • Ribbon for scarf
  • Thinner ribbon for hanger (if using as hanging ornament)
  • Paint: white, black, orange, red

Creating the Penguin:

  1. Paint feet orange and set aside.
  2. On light bulb, outline the front face/belly and paint white. Two coats.
  3. Paint the rest black. Two coats.
  4. Glue light bulb onto the feet.
  5. Paint the top socket red for hat. While drying, glue on two googly eyes.
  6. Glue on a triangular piece of orange felt for nose.
  7. Add ribbon around neck for scarf and glue into place. (One drop will do.)
  8. Glue red pom-pom on top for hat topper. If making into a tree ornament, first glue on thin ribbon for hanging. Then add the pom-pom.

Great results or better luck next time?

How did your penguin turn out? Comment and include a picture. Would love to see what you came up with. Our son-in-law Chris got creative and made a University of Florida penguin. Check out his right hand. Very cute.

Mimi

Gotta love those potato chip crumbs!

The photo with today’s post shows the reason behind a recent phone call to Frito-Lay customer service, after a purchase of a large bag of Ruffles Potato Chips.

Greg and I have different preferences in chips. We both like all potato chips, and most times both enjoy those with ridges over those without. But to Greg, the best of the best is a bag of Ruffles. And it’s hard to argue with that.

When you open that bag and get the first hint of salty potato chip goodness your taste buds start watering and you immediately anticipate the delight that awaits as you reach in for a handful. And as Greg peers inside and sees a full bag of large chips, he just knows he’s in for a treat.

But me? Well, I certainly enjoy nice, whole, large chips, but perhaps my favorite part is when you get down close to the bottom of the bag and all that remains are the crushed ones, much like you see in the photo. And why you ask would I enjoy them so much? I have no idea other than to me it’s a treat of pure salty goodness in one mouthful as I lift the bag to my mouth, pour those delightful tidbits in, and start munching even as some strays find their way onto the outside of my hands, onto my shirt, and even down to the floor. Messy? Yes, indeed. Worth it? Oh, MY yes!

(Note: Since the bag of chips purchased was a treat for Greg, I felt I had to write Customer Service after I opened the bag and saw it was filled with crushed potato chip crumbs; no whole ones in sight. Frito-Lay was very responsive, apologized, and said they were sending some coupons for our next purchase. But I had to laugh when the rep mentioned most people don’t intend to eat potato chips with a spoon! I had never thought of that; but that’s exactly how I should be eating them…with a spoon!

So why all this talk about crumbs?

Because while many see crumbs of anything—cookies, cakes, potato chips—and see something that should be thrown away, to many those crumbs are yummy goodness. Chip crumbs to be eaten with a spoon, cookie crumbs to use for a cheesecake crust. What one sees as worthless and throws away, another sees as part of something good, perhaps something even better than its original intended use.

I can see you’re already ahead of me. Often, we look at ourselves or each other and see worthless crumbs. Someone beaten down in life, a has-been, someone who’s past being able to contribute anything of value.

And yet, those very crumbs are building blocks in God’s hands. In Genesis, he took the crumbs of the earth—dirt—to create man. Then breathed life into him.

God is the Master Designer

And that same God can take the crumbs of your life, forming them into a beautiful creation full of His purpose, full of value, full of promise and possibility, and then breathe His very life into them, making them new. Making them into a wonderful creation. Making them into His masterpiece.

Maybe it’s not your own crumbs you worry about.  Maybe it’s the crumbs of your child’s life, or the life of a sibling or friend. The lesson is the same my friend. There’s not a single crumb that can’t be transformed and repurposed into God’s good intention. So, be encouraged and have hope in the Master Designer. He knows what He’s doing. And He has designed each of us to be His masterpiece.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (Philippians 1:6)

Mimi

Mimi, you’re beautiful!

This past Friday we received an early morning call that Callan was sick. Both parents needed to be at work that day so the request was made for us to come hang with the little guy. We thought about it for all of two seconds and enthusiastically said YES! Who wouldn’t want to spend the day with this sweet kid!

Though he wasn’t feeling well when we arrived, within about two hours there was a noticeable improvement. Then the fun began. Hiding a little pumpkin somewhere in the house so the other two could go look for it. Teaching him Sudoku on the iPad and watching his joy as this math whiz had an “ah-ha” moment when he realized it was really just a math game. He loved it and learned really fast.

Of course, we also enjoyed lots of conversations such as the one where Callan described me and Greg. For me he said I was full of fun and liked to play with him. (And I do.) For Greg, he said his PopPop liked to sleep. (And he does!) Just check out this picture which shows what Greg was doing at the exact moment Callan and I were chatting.

A little while later, completely out of nowhere, Callan matter-of-factly stated, “Mimi, you’re beautiful!” Greg was awake at that moment and heard it, too. And my heart melted. Just melted.

What a sweet thing for him to say…so sincere, so full of love. (Shhh, don’t tell the others, but for that moment, he was my favorite!)

A few words spoken from the heart can mean so much.

Callan’s spontaneous outburst changed everything for me in that moment. It filled me with joy as I was reminded that I was loved. That he thought I was beautiful. And that it was important enough to him that he took the time to express himself.

Can you imagine if we all did that? We often have wonderful thoughts about others but don’t always share them. We may appreciate an effort on their part. We may notice something about them we admire. We just may genuinely enjoy someone’s presence. But I’m  not sure we actually tell that to others on a regular basis.

Callan didn’t wait for the right words or the right time. He just blurted out something that was on his heart. And it really touched me. Not only that he thinks I’m beautiful, but mostly because he took the time to tell me.

I want to be more like Callan.

I don’t want to just think nice things about others. I want to take the extra moment to let them know. It would be so meaningful to them to actually hear our words of praise, appreciation, or love.

The right word, at the right time, is like precious gold set in silver. (Proverbs 25:11)

Callan, you taught Mimi a beautiful lesson this week. And I’m sharing it with now others. Maybe one day, we’ll all be a little more like you and take the time to let others know how much they mean to us.

Mimi

Working Together for God’s Glory

I love this graphic. And it’s so true, isn’t it!

Back in the day, when the kids were young, whenever new friends would come to dinner the first time, we had a go-to meal. It never failed, was delicious, and looked a little bit fancy: Sweet and Sour Pork.

Early in the day I would prep by cutting up the pork, dicing the onions and peppers, getting the pineapple and other ingredients ready, and making the blueberry muffins I served with the meal. Of course, all the prep meant I also did lots of cleaning up as I went along, not to mention the straightening of the house and cleaning of the guest bathroom for our visitors. By 5pm, everything would be ready (and I sometimes exhausted!).

Just before 6 I would fry the pork, clean out the wok and get it ready for the final step: tossing everything together, heating it through, and thickening the sauce. Then at 6, as the guests arrived, Greg would step in to toss together those few remaining ingredients. With a few final tosses and about 5 minutes of heating time, dinner was ready. But instead of it being obvious that I had done the lion’s share of the work, to the guests, it was all Greg. He got the glory. (Did I mind? Not really. And over the years it became an inside joke to us to see how we fooled our friends.)

Has this ever happened to you?

Maybe it was a work project that you toiled months on, only to have your boss present it to your clients and take the credit for a job well done. Or perhaps it was a church bazaar that you gave countless hours to and then watched from the sidelines as shoppers complimented the pastor.

It can be hard to give so much to something and not receive the credit deserved. Yet, that’s exactly what should be happening in the body of Christ. We should work together so well, without concern for who gets noticed or thanked, that a newly saved life, a well-run life group, or a wonderful church service all point to God and God alone.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Let’s Pray

Father, may I use the gifts you’ve entrusted to me in purity—for your Kingdom Work and for your Glory alone.

Mimi