Monthly Archives: November 2015

7-12 pounds? Really??

Our Weight Watcher’s instructor, Paula, always has great ideas. Today, she shared that Americans gain 7-12 pounds between Thanksgiving morning and January 2nd. Want to avoid adding those extra pounds? Well, in addition to the regular advice of controlling portions, selecting the right foods, drinking enough water and exercising, Paula has the following suggestions:

  • Realize that you can only enjoy 2 or 3 combinations of flavors in any one meal. So, make the most of your selections.
  • If you don’t love, don’t finish it. Or, even better yet, don’t eat it at all.
  • If a particular food is available all year long, don’t eat it during the holidays. So, ignore those mashed potatoes and enjoy that amazing dressing.
  • If you are at a buffet type meal, check out all of the options before you put anything on your plate.
  • Put small amounts of food on your plate and don’t let different foods touch each other  – leave some space around each item. Then, if you want more of something, go back and get a second helping.
  • Drink an extra bottle of water each day over the Thanksgiving weekend. This will help to flush out the salt in the foods eaten and will help with digestion.
  • Set a curfew on your leftovers. A good suggestion is noon on Saturday after Thanksgiving. After that time, no more leftover Thanksgiving dinner.
  • And, my favorite….Follow her dress code for Thanksgiving dinner – snug jeans. No comfy clothes that stretch!

What marvelous ideas!

Did you see the theme that I saw? Paula believes in planning! She operates under the notion that we have some idea about the holiday and that we can take action to avoid packing on extra pounds. Paula learned a long time ago that so much of life is what we make it – the choices really are ours.

Since Thanksgiving is only a week away, maybe we ought to spend a few minutes thinking about the challenges that the holiday presents.  We might enjoy the holiday more if we prepare our hearts and minds (and diets) for the week, meals, family members and events that are ahead.

Have fun!!

p.s. Paula warned that pecan pie is dangerous. Look it up – she is right!

Tents

2015-11-17 08.12.50It finally gave way. The canopy we have had set up for the last 18 months or so was demolished by wind and rain a few weeks ago. I really liked that canopy and hated to see it go. When we set it up we installed an outdoor carpet under it and put our old patio furniture under it. I liked to call that canopy our “outdoor living space” (a term I learned while watching hundreds of shows on HGTV). It was a great place to listen to the Navy helicopters training at the nearby practice field and to watch shows on Netflix (the internet signal strength out there is really strong). But, our canopy wasn’t designed to withstand our weather very long. Eventually, the impacts of wind and sun and rain caused its demise.

The other day, as I drove up, I could see the torn covering flapping in the wind and decided to take a closer look. Still hanging on the bent frame was the orchid that we had bought while visiting the kids a few months ago. From time-to-time I had remembered to water and to feed this plant but had neglected it for the past several weeks. There, popping out of the plant was the prettiest set of blossoms. Finally, a plant that thrived in spite of my neglect! In the middle of our worn out and useless canopy were beautiful flowers.

II Corinthians 5 equates our earthly bodies with tents. It says that eventually our tents must be taken down and that we suffer while we are in them here on earth.

A tent is a temporary structure. It does its job, but it will eventually wear out, and, damaged by the forces of this world, it will come down. II Corinthians goes on to promise that those who follow God will, in the eternal life that follows, be clothed with an immortal body; a body that will never suffer harm or decay.

I love the promise of the immortal and eternal. But, today, I want my tent to offer help to others. I want to use my hands, my energy, my words, my living being to create shelter to those who are needy, to encourage growth and beauty to those who are neglected, and to stop the rain and the sun from causing harm to others.

Admit it. We are temporary beings in temporary bodies. If you are like me, your tent is getting a little beat up; my canvas reflects some of the storms I have been through! Before our tents wear out and instead of applying a fresh coat of war paint or trying to “suck it up”, let’s do something for someone else! Let’s spend time and energy (and maybe some dollars??) and make a difference in someone else’s life!

Just a thought.

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Want to read the passage that I mentioned above?   https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II+Corinthians+5&version=NIV

Turkey parts

It is tough to come up with Thanksgiving crafts except for the “pine cone turkey.” So, I was excited when Oriental Trader had a craft that would work with my pre-school class.

(For those not familiar with crafts and preschoolers, basically you have to work off the “don’t want to do this” again list. For me this includes anything involving: scissors, glue, paint, tape, dried pasta, beans or fruit. In other words, I’m not good with crafts and little kids!)

The ordered kits arrived in the mail and I was ready to make a sample. The craft involved pealing brightly colored turkey part stickers (like feathers, beak, eyes, body, etc.) off of a page and placing them on another page. The final result was a cute turkey in the middle of a piece of paper. What could go wrong? The only problem was that the parts had to be put on the paper in a certain order or the turkey didn’t look like the one on the front of the package.

The appointed Thanksgiving craft day arrived and only two kids (twins) showed up for class. I hated it that more kids didn’t come, but this was going to be easy. The three of us started working. I reminded the kids of the importance of doing the project in order. They looked at me and followed my instructions. After about 10 minutes of work, their turkeys looked like mine. I was so pleased.

Because I had planned for more kids, I told the twins that they could do additional turkey pages if they wanted to. They looked at each other and then one looked at me and asked “can we put the stickers on the page anyway we want to?” I was surprised. I knew that that would not work. I had found that unless they followed my specific directions their turkeys would look strange.

I looked back at the boys. They were smiling with expectation. They had the look of a child – the look that the rest of us are trying to restore on our own faces. I smiled back and said “Sure.”

And, that’s when the fun started. Feathers got eyes. Beaks were on top of the paper. Several pages had no turkey body and another page had multiple turkey bodies with no heads. The boys laughed and laughed as their turkey pictures got crazier. Finally they laughed so hard that one of them snorted and that resulted in even more laughter.   I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks.

OK, so our turkey pictures looked nothing like the picture on the package. But, we had a ball.

This year, as we gather together, give perfection a rest and pray that you and yours will laugh together until there are tears and snorting!!

Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.” (Deuteronomy 16:14)

Maybe it’s time to try church again

It is getting late; I never did get that afternoon nap I planned and talked about. My body is weary and my eyes are getting heavy. But, it has been an amazing day. I’ve just got to share some highlights:

  • I talked with middle schoolers about faith.  And, when we saw an ambulance outside, one of them prayed out loud while the rest of us bowed our heads and prayed silently – I was so proud of them!
  • We celebrated the 13th birthday of a sweet girl. And, she and our youth pastor had a hilarious moment figuring out how they were going to hold hands when we met for prayer before the service.
  • I sang songs, old and new, and raised my voice in praise.
  • Tears filled my eyes as we watched a video honoring veterans and said the Pledge of Allegiance with hands over hearts.
  • Friends I have known for years and friends I met for the first time shook my hand and hugged me and told me “Good Morning” and “God bless you” and “I’m so glad to see you.”
  • At our potluck lunch, the selection of amazing food items would put any family restaurant to shame. I got to eat Mary Jo’s apple pie, and Geraldine’s chicken, and Deborah’s rice, and so much more. (No wonder I am tired!)
  • I heard stories from the Old Testament and about people living today in countries I will probably never visit.
  • Those around our table included people who have struggled with homelessness, professionals, parents and grandparents. They told funny stories, teased each other, cared about each other and a few wrapped up plates of leftovers to take to those who are less fortunate.
  • I helped to clean a kitchen and I toted trash bags. I watched as people just did what needed to be done.
  • Our Sunday was full of faith and food and friends and love.

When people tell me that they don’t like to go to church I wonder what they think that church is.

  • Yes, it is true that my church meets on Sunday mornings. But, we also have other times of meeting and study. It is a bit like Monday night football. To watch it live, you have to tune in on Monday night, but you can enjoy football at other times too.
  • And, it is true, not everyone in our church is perfect. In fact, I am pretty sure that everyone there would tell you that they are far from perfect.
  • You are right if you think that church seems to focus on faith. I like that. I need that. I want that.
  • And, probably like you, I am not always comfortable with what is said from the platform or what is written in the Bible, but it makes me think. And, it has made me change.

Looking for faith, friends, fellowship, fun, a chance to serve, young people, old people, meaning, or God?  Maybe it is time to try church again.  Just a thought.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

An unexpected gift

Late this afternoon, I stopped at the ATM to pick up some cash. While I was waiting for the machine to complete the transaction, I had a moment of concern as I thought about 2016. It looks like next year will be the most “active” financial year for us – not a bad year, just more complicated than ever before. Those of you who know me know that thinking about that much change caused me to be a little apprehensive. I stood in the ATM building, knowing that all would be well, but still uneasy because I could not imagine every step that we will need to take along the way.

As I walked outside, my eyes were amazed with the color on the western horizon. Just a few minutes before the sky had been darkening and now it looked like it was on fire. Try as I might, the camera on my phone could not capture its magnificence. And then, in just a few minutes, the heavens were dark. It was over so quickly but I have no doubt that I had seen the handiwork of the Creator.

I prayed a silent prayer of praise. “Lord, you just gave me once again the precious gift of peace of mind. I know that You know everything ahead of us and we trust You.  We are safe in Your hands.”

As we gather together with family and friends this holiday season, consider giving someone the gift of peace of mind. Let them know that you are going to be at their side during those tough days. Make someone comfortable when it is so very not comfortable. Let that one who is struggling know that they matter to you more than ever.  Give the gift of peace of mind.

Christ said “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Sky

Pretending

Beautiful six year old girls dressed in mothers dresses and jewelry over white background.

The three Mullins sisters and other young girls in our neighborhood liked to play dress-up. Each house had its own interesting selections. Ellen Nichols had a bunch of fun dresses and a multi-layered skirt that I absolutely loved. The girl up the street had ball gowns that her older sisters had worn and discarded. And, Twila Sue had a fantastic assortment of Avon samples; my lips have never been so red! It was fun as we spent Saturdays dressing up and pretending to be all grown up and very, very mature.

Sometimes we were a wedding party with the bride wearing a lacy half-slip on her head as a veil. Other times we were beauty pageant contestants. Pretending to come from faraway places, we would dress up, have a parade and then participate in our own version of a “talent” competition. As I recall, there was lots of singing and pretend baton twirling.

But, I don’t remember us ever holding a mock question and answer competition. We never asked each other THE question: “What is it that you want for the people of the earth?” Oh, in later years I made fun of the answers given by those young women in the televised beauty pageants. We laughed at their answers to THE question of  “I would bring world peace” or “I wish that I could cure cancer.” I know that those are fine dreams, but it all seemed insincere, just a little fake.

It reminds me of some of the answers I have given that I am not proud of. These answers were not bad, but they were not sincere and they rarely committed me to do anything out of my comfort zone. You may know too well what I mean. I am not proud that sometimes I have responded to a friend’s story of pain with a much too quick “I’ll pray for you.” And, I am ashamed to admit that I have been guilty of turning away when someone looked to me to do something to help them during a tough time. I have, at times, given the “I want world peace” answer when the better reply would be “I will do what I can to help bring peace to your life.”

This holiday season, some of us will get too excited about the words on a disposable coffee cup and forget that we ought to be doing what we can to make Christmas merry for someone who is struggling. We may look for the “gift card” gift rather than gifting our time. Or, we shy away from asking someone their plans for Thanksgiving because we don’t really want to include them in our plans.

This holiday season, as we gather together, let’s not say we want peace; let’s work to create peace.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:17-18)

Baptism – a preschooler’s question

Little Asian girl child thinking over white background

Several times in my life I have been blessed to teach a Sunday School class for preschoolers. The ages vary, but usually this involves kids who are potty trained and not yet enrolled in kindergarten. They are a delightful group and are able to learn so much.

(I enjoyed the class so much, that someone asked me if I would be interested in teaching a class at our church’s pre-school. I replied that I would love to do that…for about 7 minutes. After that I would be looking for an escape route. One of the wonderful things about Sunday School is that it is only one day a week and for only an hour or so!)

If possible, I included in my class time a walk. We would enjoy a stroll around the parking lot, trying to find if God had made two leaves exactly alike. Often our walks would include a tour of the church lobby. (I always found it interesting the number of adults who never seemed to make it into a class.) As we passed through the lobby, we went into the restroom for that all important stop on our walk.

If we could, I would take my little into the room we use for worship and we would talk about things in the room. Our church has a kneeling bench and my class and I would kneel down say a simple prayer. This was also a lesson in understanding that the kneeling rail is NOT a playground; using it as a balance beam or a pommel horse was not acceptable!

For preschoolers, this learning about the furnishings of the church was all new stuff.

For instance, at Christmas we studied each of the figures of the nativity set. Other days, we stood behind the lectern that the pastor used as a desk. Sometimes, we would stand on the platform and look out at the chairs. Other times, we sat in the chairs and looked at the platform from the chairs. Every once in a while, we would peek into the sound booth.

One Sunday, the service schedule included several baptisms. Our church uses a portable baptistery that is a temporary addition to the platform; I knew that this would fascinate my preschoolers. Before leaving for our walk (and bathroom stop), I talked with the kids about baptism. I shared the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. As we walked through the lobby, we asked those we met if they had been baptized and where were the baptized – in a church, or a swimming pool, or at the beach, or somewhere else.

Finally, it was time to walk up to baptistery to check it out. The temporary structure looks a little like a nice, above ground pool with a drape around the structure and no wooden deck. The kids and I walked up to it and I shared again about baptism. Eventually, we put our hands into the water, noting that it was warm. It was then, that one of my students raised her hand. I was pretty pleased with her action – raising your hand before speaking is a critical lesson with preschoolers. I called on her and she asked the most interesting question about baptism.

“Will they be naked?”

Her question stopped me in my tracks. I cannot describe (OK, I won’t describe) the visual image that my mind created. I looked at her and then I looked at the other students. They all had serious looks. Clearly this question had been on the mind of more than just the brave little girl. I then went on to explain that this was not a bathtub, but a special thing called a baptistery (might as well use the right word) and that people would probably be wearing shorts and t-shirts.  No one would be naked.

Don’t you just love preschoolers?

But, it is important that we share with those we love  why we do certain things. Yesterday’s Veterans Day holiday is a perfect example. Have you talked about what Veterans Day means to you? To those in your family? Or, those in your community?

What other traditions should you be discussing? Why does your family have black eyed peas on New Year’s and my family have pork and sauerkraut? Why do you go to the communion service on Christmas Eve? Why do we have pumpkin pie and turkey and corn on Thanksgiving? Why do we (in the south) stop when a funeral procession is coming down the road toward us? Why do I still have a tough time putting on nice slacks for Sunday morning? Why do we hold hands when we say grace?

Don’t forget as you gather together to teach the important things and to share why we are together.

Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 The Message)

An unusual posting

OK, I’m going off the beaten path here. But, I have something that I think might be helpful.

John and I were blessed with four amazing parents. Howard and Iva Stein, and Bill and Norma Mullins have always been warm, kind, loving, smart, hard-working, generous and dear people. Today, Howard and Iva are together, no doubt dancing down those golden streets of heaven. And, Bill and Norma are fixing dinner in their kitchen in Kansas, laughing at every step of their preparation. They are four fantastic parents.

Now, I know that some of you grew up where love and kindness were not what you knew from the adults in your home. I wish that I could change that for you. But, for today, just pretend that you have been adopted by Howard and Iva or Bill and Norma. Imagine that these two adults love you and care about you and will always be there for you.

– When you are cold, they give you their coat.

– When you are hungry, they make sure that you have something good to eat.

– When you are sick, they do everything they can to help you get better.

Now, know that they do not always give you what you want; but they give you what you need.

– So, your request for candy might be answered with a reply that dinner will be served in an hour.

– Your “need” for those expensive jeans might be met with some hand-me-downs from your sibling or by a good pair of “generic” jeans.

– And, your longing for that special bike might be met with exactly that bike and a good bike helmet.

Imagine an adult who loves you and who behaves like a parent.

OK, got the picture?

Now, think about how they might communicate direction to us. Do these examples sound right?

– We miss dinner because they whispered when they said, “Dinner is ready” and we couldn’t hear them.

– They prohibited us from learning to drive because we were scared the first time we got behind the steering wheel.

– Or, we never graduated from high school because at the age of 5 we didn’t know that we were expected to go to kindergarten and they didn’t take us to school.

Those three examples sound nothing like the loving parents I described before, do they?

– I totally understand how we might miss dinner because we had snuck out of the house (after they told us not to) and didn’t hear the call of “dinner.”

– Or, we weren’t allowed to drive the car because we weren’t old enough.

– Or, we didn’t graduate from high school because we dropped out even though they did everything possible to keep us in school.

Good parents don’t play “gotcha” and trick their children. Good parents hold us accountable only when we are able to understand the rules and to obey them.

The same is true with God. God doesn’t play “gotcha.”

When we seek Him and do what He directs us to do and continue to try to be obedient – He guides our paths. He doesn’t whisper so that we cannot hear Him. When we seek Him, listen to Him, and do what He tells us to do – He directs our steps and promises that He will share His plan for us at the right time..

So, if today you are doing everything you can to draw closer to God and to do what He tells you want to do, relax!!

You are not going to miss His guidance. He is not going to play “gotcha” with you.

Questions? Give me a buzz. I’ll tell you about our loving and generous God.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Why “We Gather Together”?

The heater was on last night. I saw where the Hallmark Channel has starting running Christmas movies. Some of you might even be humming, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” I thought that I would remind you of why I write these little stories.

Two years ago, God led me to write a series I called, “25 Days of December.” I loved writing those articles; it was fun to share stories that we have told in my family for years. I probably got the most responses from my tale of three sisters (I was the middle one) lighting candles in our room on Christmas Eve. Late in the night, our father, hearing strange noises, came into our room to find us “hiding” the burning candles under a sheet. One dear friend, emailed me saying that she had had to stop reading the tale to her husband as he drove for fear that her laughter might cause an accident. (Accident? Hmmmm…) Anyway, my point of those stories was that we need to treasure family, friends and even strangers because God loved us so very, very much.

That led me to last year. After completing “25 Days of December”, I happened upon an old hymn of the church, “We Gather Together.” The words of that hymn have occupied my mind for nearly 23 months. (My 2014 series is on my blog “wegathertogether14.com”) You see, I believe we need to gather together more now than ever before. I need you. I need other Christians. I need other Americans. Have no doubt that we have differences; but, we do not need to fear those differences. We need to gather together, to stand together, because we need each other.

I will share my little holiday stories and thoughts as the days grow colder and the night skies grow brighter. Sometimes cold and difficulties do that for us – they make it easier for us to see clearly what is most important. We learn again the importance of seeking the bright and warm lights of family and friends. We long for home, whatever and wherever “home” is to us. Most of all, we seek God. Our hearts strain to get above the noise and struggles that surround us on this earth and to find heaven.

But, our daily lives fight us. At the same time that we long to “gather together” we are pushed and pulled away and apart. So, my purpose is to fight against that pressure; I will strive to unite, to intentionally, to purposefully gather together.

  • Instead of accepting the conventional wisdom that texting and emailing and blogging and facebooking separate us, let us use these tools to unite us when we cannot be together physically.
  • When, the costs of family reunions are too high, let’s skype.
  • When December 25th is a bad date for “our” Christmas, then let’s make “our” Christmas happen on December 10th or January 14th.
  • When the world says that I should protect myself, I desire to be open and loving and vulnerable.  I may take a punch or two, but it is worth it!
  • When the acceptable thing is to acceptable, I will say “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You” and “Peace.”

This holiday season, let’s gather together. Let’s ask the Lord’s blessing!! Lord, MAKE US FREE!!

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known; The wicked oppressing now cease from “distressing; Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

“Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine; So from the beginning the fight we were winning; Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

“We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, And pray that Thou still our Defender will be; Let Thy congregation escape tribulation; Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”

Love,

Jill (just one of kids)

Words

It has been raining for several days and we are excited to see the weather forecast of clear skies later this week. But, for now, we still need the windshield wipers.

As John and I sat at a stoplight this morning, we had a clear view of the windshield wiper on the back window of the SUV in front of us. It caught my attention, because there was an oddly shaped hand silhouette affixed to the wiper blade. The hand had letters on it in a foreign language. While waiting for the light to change, I found myself trying to figure out the meaning of the figure.

Suddenly, it struck me. The hand shape had an extended middle finger and, even though I do not speak the foreign language, I understood the words.

I felt so very badly for any parent who will get the question, “What does that mean?”

You may have been next to me in the airport, or in the waiting room at the car wash, or in line at the grocery store when we heard words that caused us to gasp or sigh or cringe. So often, when I hear those words, I look around to see if there are children nearby. But, I always am saddened.

We hear those words more than we have ever heard them – out of the mouths of teens, of those with wealth and those without wealth, of men and of women, of athletes, coaches, spectators and announcers. And, we have heard those words spoken by children.

But, today instead of looking to see if there were children present, I shouted, “I am a child. We are all children of God. We do not want to hear or see those words or images. We want to live in a world that cares, in a world that shows respect, in a world that loves.” Please forgive me, but I don’t want my heart and mind to become even more jaded, more used to those angry and offensive intentions.

What really saddens my heart is that the words and images are reflections of hearts that are angry and violent and hurt, of hearts that need love and joy and peace.

We are all children, created by God, who need to be cared for and cared about.

During this holiday season, I want my view to go deeper than the words and images. I want my focus to be on the heart.

Friend, Let our words this holiday season be uplifting!  May our words reflect hearts of love.

The scripture says, “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (Luke 6:45, The Message)

Love you,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)