Monthly Archives: December 2019

Rizzo the dog and time

Sometimes John and I will listen to a book on CD. We just finished one about a police officer who, after being hurt badly, was assigned to his police department’s canine unit to partner with a working dog. There he met a dog who some thought was “damaged goods” after a war-related injury. The man and dog formed a great team and solved a major crime. Ok, the plot was far fetched but fun. I particularly liked the chapters written from the dog’s perspective.

But, I am not much of an animal person and I usually don’t have much fun while around other people’s pets. They make me more than a little nervous. When meeting someone’s pet for the first time and the animal is as unsure of me as I am of them, I hate the phrase “oh don’t worry about them – they won’t hurt you.” Really??? Can you guarantee that?? In those situations, John provides a protective barrier for me that makes me feel so safe.

But, an exception to my worry around animals is Rizzo. (There are several other pets who are ok too.) Rizzo is an older chocolate lab who is part of my sister’s family. She is a doll and seems to understand that I need a slower than most re-introduction to her. While we were staying in their home this fall there was a fascinating discussion about daylight saving’s time and Rizzo.

The conversation was about preparing for the day in the fall when we “fall back” an hour. One family member thought that Rizzo would be fine with the change; the other family member wanted to set a schedule of gradual time changes (perhaps 5 minutes a day) until they had achieved the full 60 minute change.

It isn’t that Rizzo is interested in time; she doesn’t even notice if a clock is digital or analog!!

Nope, the time change had a simple but profound impact on Rizzo – her dinner time was to be an hour later than what she was used to. Rizzo isn’t interested in the why or how the change happens every years, she has a single concern – her dinner was late.

Too many times I have been too focused on explaining the why’s and how’s of life when folks just wondered when their dinner or phone call or present or visit would happen. We, like Rizzo, are creatures of habit. Our hunger concerns us, not the history of food.

You might see a Rizzo-like event happen in your own life this week.

– The present doesn’t arrive on time. Rather than asking the questions of why and how, just ask when you can expect it. Simplifying the issue will make it easier for everyone.

– Someone will ask why someone else isn’t married or dating or whatever. Your reply could be something like “yep, that hasn’t happened, but, so much more has happened this year.”

– Two days ago was the first anniversary of the death of a good friend of ours. The only thing you need to say is “I’m sorry.” That phrase is perfectly perfect.

Like Rizzo, sometimes we just someone to fix our late dinner. Sometimes, we don’t want or need (or deserve) the backstory. Just a thought.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)


Thanksgiving trout

One Thanksgiving, John and I were by ourselves. We were not yet able to get jobs in the same city so I was “visiting” him for the weekend. We decided to try out a new restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner.

As we sat down, I immediately began to enjoy the water view next to us and I really didn’t focus on what our pleasant server was saying except to place my drink order.

We scanned the menu set before us and found it odd that a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal was not being offered. After considering my options I ordered trout with a dill sauce. The meal was wonderful, but as I was eating my “Thanksgiving fish” I noticed the people at a table near us being served a “traditional Thanksgiving” dinner with all of the wonderful side dishes. My trout with dill sauce just didn’t taste so good after I saw their meal.

Lessons learned from my Thanksgiving fish dinner?

  • Pay attention! What people say matters!!
  • If you don’t see what you want, AND it is appropriate to do so – ask. (This recommendation does not give you license to ask for other menu options when presented with a holiday meal prepared by a family member or friend!!).

In other words, don’t eat trout when you can have turkey!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Opening gifts

Many years ago, I watched a family open their Christmas gifts, it was all over in 10 minutes. Those were a fantastic 10 minutes, but it was a blur of wrapping paper and shouts of excitement.

My family had a different tradition. At some point during the night my parents would divide up the gifts under the tree into piles. When it was time we would excitedly sit next to “our pile” and wait for the opening to start. As we got older, my parents allowed us to do the gift separation. That involved lots of gift shaking and comments like “that’s from me” or “I wonder what this is??”

When Christmas morning arrived, we opened our stockings first. Each of us would start by looking down in that dark top of the stocking and then we would just dump the contents onto the floor. At the bottom of the stocking would be a tangerine. Mom would have us eat that, a biscuit and a breakfast sausage before we starting unwrapping gifts. That lady was smart – she wanted some protein and carbohydrates in us before the day got started!

Gift opening followed a particular pattern. The youngest child would open a gift first while the rest of us watched. We would oohhh and aaahhh over the gift, while the child would say “thank you” to the giver with maybe a hug thrown in. The next gift was opened by the next oldest child and we would follow that pattern up the five of us kids and then through Mom and Poppa and, for many years, Grandma Randlett. Once a round was done, we would start over.

John and I celebrated our first Christmas Day together on December 25th 1991. He had been deployed on our first Christmas we had been married so Christmas Day 1991 was special. We had spent the morning of Christmas Eve in Olathe with my family. We left early that day to make the drive in the daylight as snow fell.

As I awoke on our that first Christmas Day together I knew immediately that I had strep throat – joy!! We bundled up and headed to the ER at the military hospital. It was just before 6am when we arrived and the night shift was having their Christmas party. They stopped long enough to say that although the culture was “iffy” they needed to give me antibiotics. We got the pills, wished the staff Merry Christmas, and headed home and back to bed.

When we woke up later that morning, it was time to open gifts and we did. But, we took our time, breaking to make a fabulous breakfast and try out our new juicer. It was perfect.

So, no matter how gift opening goes for you (whenever you celebrate Christmas), if you take 10 minutes, or do it in rounds, or take a whole day to open them, think about the following;

  • Did the gift opening start before you read the scripture account of the first Christmas? You could make this a Christmas Eve tradition, or before gift opening or before or after Christmas dinner. But, do it. Remembering why we celebrate Christmas changes our whole perspective.
  • Did you take time to make notes of who gave you what so you can write your thank you notes? “Thank you notes?”, you ask. Yes, write thank you notes. If that is too hard for you then send an email or a text. No, saying thank you when you open the gift isn’t enough if you are above the age of 6. (At least that is what Mom taught us. Christmas afternoon involved writing our thank you notes – a great tradition to teach thankfulness.)
  • No matter how expensive your wrapping paper or how carefully you did it – all of the wrapping paper ends up in the recycle bin. So, if you don’t enjoy wrapping gifts, then make it quick and easy. Or, just buy gift bags and stuff tissue paper in the top. It will all work!
  • Take the time to enjoy the acts of giving and receiving. If it is going too fast for you, just stop talking and watch and listen, notice the joy around you. Rejoice in the celebration of God’s gift to us.

Got to get back to gift wrapping. And I need to find my stack of blank thank you notes!!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

What did I mail to you?

So today, the box of Christmas we sent to my parents arrived. Of course, they had told us to send nothing. They are so dear but their living space is limited and they have no needs. And, of course, we ignored them. We sent a box.

As soon as I had shipped it (from our super UPS Store (on west 9 Mile Road in Pensacola – shameless plug for my friends who own the store!!) I realized that I had neglected to put two items in the box.

When Mom and I chatted today, she told me that the box had arrived and that the gifts were under the Christmas tree. I was glad to know that the box was there, early and in one piece. I told Mom that I was sending two small items to them in envelopes and I asked her to not open them until Christmas. She agreed.

Then, she told me that I looked like I had dumped part of my wallet into the box. There were business cards and other items that she didn’t think were gifts.

Ok, I can now declare that it is “Christmas crazy” time. Somehow I empty part of my wallet into a box of Christmas presents AND I shipped it to Kansas. Luckily, none of it is important and I can pick it up when I see them in a month or so. But, don’t worry if you are feeling a little stretched right now – so are the rest of us.

Do what you can, forget the rest. And, breathe!!!

At least you didn’t send wallet “stuff” to your parents…..sigh.

Merry Christmas!!

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

My visit with “Marsha”

December means it is time to get some of my jewelry items checked at the store to keep the warranty current. And so, I gathered up my courage and headed to the store, paperwork in hand.

The first challenge is that the store is in the center of the mall and it is December. Enough said!

Then, I go into a crowded store for a transaction that does not include a sale. I get it – I am an hinderance. My visit with the clerk will not add to the sales commission check. But, it is December and that month (and, six months later in June) is the appointed warranty check time. The sad thing is that I saw 3 other people holding warranty card folders, waiting to get the obligatory examination. We are the “unclean” to the sales force.

So, Marsha (not her real name) greets me as best as she can. I tell her that I have three items that need to be checked and I hand her my paperwork. Marsha doesn’t remember me but we did this same dance last December. I feel sad.

She takes my paperwork, spreads it out on the desk and immediately tells me that I have the wrong paperwork; she will have to call corporate and get info I don’t have. I apologize.

Back up six months…I brought our entire file of transactions with that store and gave them to Sally (not her real name). Sally told me that everything Marsha had done in December 2018 was wrong. All I needed were two specific pieces of paper with her hand written notes and a paper log of previous warranty checks completed. I begged forgiveness for the trouble I have caused.

Back to my recent visit with Marsha. She tells me that one of the two numbers means nothing and that their company has not used the paper log for more that 5 years. I hang my head and apologize. (Well, that’s what I would like to say happened. Actually I told Marsha all about what Sally had said. Let’s just say that my informative comments were neither helpful nor well received.)

Marsha finally got the right numbers from corporate. She handed me new paperwork and told me that those were the only things I needed to bring when I come back in 6 months.

That was when I decided to dive into troubled waters. I asked Marsha to recheck one ring. I explained that when I put my hand under my pillow at night, it sometimes snags. I was worried that a prong might be misaligned. She did a very thorough check, told me that it was fine (yay!) and then told me that I should not wear my wedding band or anniversary ring to bed at night.

How could I ever explain to Marsha that I already have a cell phone, a watch, a set of keys and my eyeglasses that are in various stages of “lost” in my purse or our home? To add two very, very small items to that list would be more than I (or my dear and patient husband) could handle.

Instead I thanked Marsha, wished her Merry Christmas and decided to again bring all of my paperwork to the next visit. When I am told that whatever I have done is wrong, I’ll try to remember to hang my head, apologize and beg forgiveness.

So, this Christmas, remember that the salesclerk helping you may have just finished helping me. They are already having a bad day – be kind!!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. We will still shop at that store for any very special items. They have beautiful things at a fair price. Their sales team is fantastic – they know their stuff and are so helpful. The paperwork system could use some work. 😊


I’ve been asked why I call my father “Poppa.” I would be happy to share.

For many years, I was a member of the Olathe College Church of the Nazarene choir. Led by Hardy Weathers we took on tough and fun music. Ever rehearsal, we would spend time practicing 4 or 5 pieces, always polishing up the choir special for the following Sunday.

On Sunday mornings we would gather in our choir room to do a final run through and then file into the choir loft. You could almost set your watch by our entrance. It was a beautiful sanctuary and singing in the choir helped to lead the congregation in worship. What a joy those years were.

During my years in the choir, I did a variety of things in the hour that preceded the worship service time. Some years, I was in a Sunday School class, other years I taught one. I remember helping with attendance records for a bit and other tasks. But, I always left my assignment in time to get to the choir room on time for rehearsal.

My last few years in the College Church choir were spent worshiping in the large sanctuary they still use. It is an impressive hall, seating over 4,500 and laid out in just short of a half-circle. For me, the most direct route to our choir room was down one of the main aisles of that large sanctuary.

I hated walking that path alone and so my Poppa would “walk me down the aisle” every Sunday morning. He always had a spring in his step as we walked and I enjoyed being on his arm. One day I said to him, “You are really popping up and down today.” He laughed and said, “Yep, that’s me – Poppa!” He never failed to meet me, to help me make that walk. And, I felt like a princess – every single time.

A few years later, when he walked me down the center aisle, me wearing my mother’s wedding gown, to meet John at the altar, being on Poppa’s arm made me so happy. On that day, he still made me feel like a princess. You see, simple things matter.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Christmas tunes

I am waiting for some friends to arrive. We are going to decorate 250 cookies to fill an order for our church’s Meals with a Mission program. It is going to be one sticky morning!l

It is a rainy day and dark outside. So, to get into the mood of Christmas, I have the house cheery with lots of lights and Christmas music playing. Our TV cable service includes various music channels; we have “songs of the seasons” playing.

It is interesting what they feature on those TV channels. This morning we have heard some of our favorite Christmas carols and songs sung by our favorite artists, songs we have never heard before, detested versions of favorite songs and some songs that just make me nervous. It is an eclectic mix!

But, that is how life is. I enjoy the familiar, question the unfamiliar and rankle at things I don’t like.

A few years ago I realized that I was having a challenge enjoying some of the new music being used by our church to lead the congregation in worship. Some of it was ok but some of it just got under my skin. So, I created a “new church music appreciation” course of study for myself. At least half of my driving time was spent listening to the new music. The rest of the time I listened and sang along to music I had loved for a long time. Soon I found myself singing along with the modern stuff. And, then I started listening to the words and thinking about the theology behind the words. Some of it was good, some of it was not. Amazingly, the same is true of the music I have loved forever.

Why did I choose to listen to that which challenged me? Well, if I am going to worship and help others to worship, I better get with the program. I do not want to be a stumbling block to others!!

So, the next time you hear that unfamiliar song, take time to listen rather than change the channel. Funny, you might learn something new.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. After Christmas last year I found our new Christmas moose on sale at Sam’s for 75% off. He doesn’t fit with any of my “gather together” musings but I wanted to share him anyway – he is adorable!!


This afternoon John and I delivered goodies to our neighbors and we left a package of goodies for our mail man. What fun! We included a Christmas card and a small ornament. It was a joy to see them, share hugs, and to say Merry Christmas and God bless.

One of my favorite Christmas memories related to church has to do with bags of goodies we put together as a family. I didn’t learn until later that some church folks had complained about this “chore” and so my parents volunteered our family to do it. Who else had 5 kids to use as an assembly line? Hahaha!

Seriously, this was such a great family activity. We had a stack of brown paper bags, sack lunch size or a little larger. And, we had apples and nuts and candies. Mom and Poppa assigned a station to each of us and gave us instructions related to that station. The sack would come to our section of the table where we would add our item and then moved the item down the line. I remember it being really fun. But, the joy was even greater when we saw the sacks of Christmas goodies handed out one December Sunday morning. Those paper bags of Christmas goodies made people so happy!!

It’s Christmas! Take some fruit or cookies or candies (store bought is fine!), put it them on a paper or plastic plate and deliver the goodies to someone who doesn’t expect it. You can share so much joy with just a card and a cookie.

Try it – you might see a neighbor become a friend!


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

I almost lost my shoe

This year we moved into our new house. It is so wonderful to be home. And, on this afternoon after a very busy morning, I have enjoyed more than one nap on the couch!

But, I remember a Sunday afternoon a few years ago that was so different, so difficult. I have one word for it – muck.

You see, after the foundation had been laid for our new home, we had one rain storm after another. Our builder told us we needed to wait for the muck to dry out before work could continue. And so, I decided to see what I could do to hurry the process up. This particular afternoon was sunny and there was a nice breeze. It seemed to me that perhaps some old fashioned hard work might make a difference.

I grabbed a rake and a hoe and headed into the middle of the foundation, built of cement blocks. It looked like a little mud with some dry patches. I started raking around the edges. I thought that by breaking up the surface, the wet mud underneath would be exposed to the sun and breeze, causing it to dry.

The more I worked, the farther I got away from the cement walls. Using the hoe, I would lift some of the mud and plop it down again. The harder I worked, the bigger the job got. And, the farther out into the muck I went.

And then it happened, my foot was stuck in the muck. I couldn’t raise my leg – the muck was stronger than I was. I realized that the muck had captured my shoe; I could be free if I just gave up a shoe. I wasn’t trapped.

In the end,I was able to use the hoe to break the suction holding my shoe and extricate my foot and my shoe! Victory!!

Wait…the muck was still there. I did nothing to change the situation. No matter how how dedicated, how focused, I stubborn I was, I couldn’t change the muck. All I did was frustrate myself and get stuck and almost lose a shoe. There was no victory…no victory, but a lesson learned. Sometimes we just have to wait it out.

Sigh…I wish I lived like I had really learned that lesson. Just a thought.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Learn the song

Tomorrow is our celebration of Christmas at Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene. I am blessed to be singing the song “His Name is Jesus.”

Getting this song ready has been a challenge for me. It seems that, until this week, I had let every possible distraction keep me from focusing on learning this song. Admittedly, the solo sounded ok when I sang it in the car (everything sounds good when you are singing alone in a car!). But, on Wednesday, at our dress rehearsal, I messed up the song so badly that we did it again, and IT WAS EVEN WORSE!! I knew it was all my fault, but I still whined about other things that weren’t really to blame.

I have been singing since I learned to talk. I have a decent choir voice and I love to read music. It is a joy to sing. And, when Poppa had a heart procedure a few years ago and lost the ability to swallow for awhile, I realized anew how beneficial singing is. It keeps my throat muscles working hard. It forces me to breath deeply and to exercise my core. (I hide the results under a very non-healthy indulgence in chocolate chip cookies!). And, the scripture says that singing can be praise. (“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).)

Yesterday, I figured out the song I am to sing tomorrow morning. For me, there is the technical part of learning a song — the words, the notes, the rhythm. That part can be challenging, but is pretty simple with lots of focused practice. And, I practiced the song a lot. But, there is a second component to learning a song — the soul of the song. This takes time and attention and prayer.

For instance, I have been blessed to be able to sing our National Anthem many times. I don’t get creative with this song. My belief is that it should be sung as written, as the writer intended it and as people know it. But, getting the tune, words and rhythm right is only part of singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” I want to see the bombs bursting in air in my mind and try to imagine the joy and pride at seeing our flag still flying at dawn after the battle of the night.

I love the song “O Holy Night” and I love the voice of a particular singer. But, I cannot tolerate hearing that particular artist sing “O Holy Night.” Their life and words don’t reflect a heart that beats the joy of the gift from God on that holy night.

So, why couldn’t I sing my solo at practice on Wednesday?

It is simple. I hadn’t done all of the work that needed to be done and I was listening to everything else but the song.

It’s a frequent temptation to fall into this trap. We wonder why Christmas morning isn’t special, but we haven’t spent the time thinking about and loving the people around us; and then on that special morning we only listen to the words we hear with our ears and not the hugs and the smiles we hear with our hearts.

Or, we have the party at work. It seems to be the dullest event ever! But, have we pushed so hard to get work done so that we can “enjoy” the event and are we continually stopping co-workers for “just a minute” to talk about “one last” item of business? Have we failed to pay attention to their sweet stories about kids and grandkids or are we thinking about our drive home?

Take the time to learn the meaning of the song, to notice your loved ones, to hear the heartbeat of the Christmas story. It will cause your soul to sing.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

Ps. Want to “hear” how it goes? At 10:30 am tomorrow,stop by Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene (3475 Pine Forest Road, Cantonment,FL) or catch us anytime on Facebook live (“First Church of the Nazarene, Pensacola, FL”.)