For a little over 30 years, I worked with the NROTC Program. It was a blessing to be part of that program and the amazing people who made it all happen.
Every year, about 4,000 of our nation’s best college students trained and learned together in preparation for commissioning into the officer corps of either the Navy or Marine Corps. Part of the course included training with the active duty forces over the summer months. Between the freshmen and sophomore years, NROTC midshipmen went to the west or east coast to participate in four weeks of training: one week each with submarines, aviation, surface Navy and Marine Corps.
On the west coast, the week with the Marines included a simulation of securing a small village. Small groups of midshipmen would move from play wood building to building, securing the area.
One year, I got word that a midshipman had suffered a severe arm fracture. His training was ended and he was sent home for additional treatment. I asked how he had broken multiple bones and the answer came with laughter.
Apparently, when working with his team to secure a building, this not-so-bright lad had launched his body through a window opening in the building and landed hard on the sand floor inside. It seems that he had watched too many movies where the hero had executed a similar action, ending in a forward roll and a jump to his feet. The young man’s action did not go as planned; his daring dive resulted in a face and arm plant and the snapping of bones. I am happy to report that in the end, he mended and was fine.
What is my point? Well, have you an unreasonable goal for the holidays? That goal being the equivalent of launching your body through a window opening of a ply wood building? I know it looks easy – Norm Abrams, Rachel Ray, and Martha Stewart, Chip and Joanna all get it done!! Guess what? That’s tv life, not real life!
Don’t break a bone (literally or figuratively) this Christmas. Eat good, sleep well, enjoy the holidays!!
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest. (Psalm 127:2, TLB)
Our neighborhood Facebook page started a fascinating discussion thread the other day. It suggested that people list things they needed or things that they no longer needed. As I watched the discussion over the next few days, matches were being made.
Someone would note, “I need x.” Things like tools or gadgets were mentioned. Sometimes it was kids’ clothes of a certain size, usually to help a neighbor or family members or a foster family with a new placement. In a few cases it was a request for some help with a home project like helping to hang a light fixture or get a trailer tire installed.
And, the responses would trickle in. Someone had that tool to lend or would loan out their teenager to help with a chore. Kids clothes flew from house to house.
It also worked in reverse. Someone would note that they had something they no longer needed. Oh, it might be used and a little worn but it still had some usefulness in it. As items were offered up, folks would reply that they could use that very thing.
It didn’t appear that there were instances of taking advantage or giving away trash. It was just neighbors helping neighbors. What a wonderful feeling.
I have a closet full of clothes and shelves with so many books. I wonder who might need some of those? Are there people who would appreciate the things that I no longer need?
Years ago I was friends with a naval officer who had been on active duty for about 15 years. One day, she asked if I could help her clean out some boxes of clothes from her step-dad. I asked her how long her step-dad had been gone and she replied “9 years.” As we opened the boxes, I found a stack of button down shirts that were still in their cellophane wrappers. For 9 years, she had moved boxes of brand new shirts. Shirts that I knew were needed by men trying to get jobs and establish normal lives after living on the streets. My heart broke as the old plastic coverings crumpled in my hands. What a waste.
What do we have that someone else needs? I read that Toys for Tots’ and Salvation Army donations are down this year. It is going to be a tough Christmas for too many.
What do we have that someone else needs?
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
This is going to be short. I have one question for you: Who needs to hear from you?
Need some time to organize your thoughts? Fine, then put the call, the text, the visit on your calendar. And make it happen within the next 10 days. Don’t wait until Christmas or 2021. Just make the call.
You can, you need to do this.
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
Ps. I made my call this morning. I have another one to make tomorrow.
Galatians 6:2. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Almost 41 years ago, I left home and family and moved to Pensacola, Florida. I loved the 135-year old house where I lived. I was leaving a great job and moving was hard. I just couldn’t get packed.
A week or so before the move, Mom stopped by to visit and immediately understood my dilemma. In each room stood several open boxes, all in various stages of being packed. Scattered around the boxes was “stuff.” She could tell that I was overwhelmed.
In a sweet and understanding way, she offered to help. Although I was in that awkward young adult period of thinking that accepting help demonstrated some form of personal weakness, I quickly accepted her offer.
She started in a corner of a room and then she worked, expanding her work area in the shape of a fan. She just packed the stuff. She didn’t sort or organize – she packed. And like a horde of locusts attacking a ripe field, nothing was left behind her.
If you find yourself with too many tasks, too many taskmasters, and too little time this month, I have some advice for you: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a)
1. Find the most important task.
2. Do it!
3. Find the next important task.
4. Do it!
5. Find the next important task.
6. Do it!
Need me to write more steps?
As I look around our home there are:
⁃ Ingredients ready to be used in baking Christmas goodies
– Cards to address and mail
– Presents to wrap
– A list of presents and cards to buy
⁃ Outdoor lights that have not been put up
⁃ So many other projects.
And on my desk are:
⁃ A book that needs a final polish
⁃ A paper that needs to be written
– Emails that need to be drafted and sent
⁃ A sermon that still needs work
– An in-box that needs to be cleaned out
– So many other projects
I could make lists for my dresser, my closet, the craft room, the kitchen…please, don’t ask for those.
I’ll bet you have many of the same challenges. Let’s do the most important thing first. This Christmas season, after I have spent time in the word and in prayer with John, my first priority will be to send a note or email or make a call to someone to say that I love and appreciate them. These are not “thank you for x, y, z” calls but “thank you for being you” calls.
Then, I am planning to take on and finish one task at a time. As the scripture directs: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a) That may mean that some of the Christmas baked goodies do not make it into the oven until January.
“New Year Goodies” – what a fantastic idea!!
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
Ps. It is time for both of us to get back to work!! 😄
I should have realized that I was having a problem, but I ignored the symptoms. Those of you who know me, could have seen it coming. Several days ago, my phone decided to ignore my “send” directive and told me that it would not send a text. I tried several more times – no joy. Then, suddenly it started texting again. It happened again yesterday and then today the phone refused to send any texts. Even my attempts of sending “test” texts brought no relief. So frustrating!!
But it wasn’t as frustrating as my recent experience in trying to resolve my medical insurance situation. You see, I purchase my primary insurance through my former employer and, as a secondary insurance, I have Tri-Care as a military dependent. In February, I hit the big “65” and I need to begin Medicare. Medicare will cost money. My plan was – suspend my primary insurance and use that money to pay for my Medicare. What a plan!!
But I could not figure out how to make that happen. Surprisingly, my Medicare card appeared in the mail one day. First step done!
Second step – get my former employer to pick up the cost of Medicare. I decided to call Medicare to find out how to get that done. I can hear some of you chuckle. Yep, that was a mistake. The screen shot of my phone (that cantankerous thing that will only receive texts), shows that I spent just about 2- and one-half hours on hold.
There was music and announcements the first hour and then that stopped. After 90 minutes had passed, the call was ended on their part by asking me to reply to several survey questions. “You betcha, I’ll answer your survey,” and I did. I never spoke to a person.
The next day, I started over and this time called a gentleman in the Office of Personnel Management (the folks who manage my retirement pay including health care benefits). He explained that they would not pay my Medicare cost, but that they would suspend my health care program with them when I was ready.
Second step…Done. I did not like the answer, but I did get an answer.
Then, I noticed that I had been ignoring some “advertisements” from a company who wanted to sell me health insurance. Whoops, I should have read those letters!! I learned that I was going to be charged for Tri-Care. What??? I thought it was part of John’s benefits of 30 years of military service. After reading the last letter (then one that says “Pay by December 31 or die” – I might not have that wording exactly right), I decided that John had to pay for his Tri-Care also. I informed him thusly. Whoops. Now not only was I frustrated, but my very patient spouse was excited – not good.
After reading the multiple letters I had received, I discovered that I had no idea what we needed to do. None of it made any sense.
And so, I called the nice lady at the Tri-Care contract provider. I put her on speaker so that John could hear both sides of our conversation. She apologized for the confusing notices; she said that she had heard many others report the same. She was kind as she assured me that John did not need to pay; his Tri-Care was good to go. But, she continued, I would need to pay for mine.
She looked at my record again and said, “I see that you are turning 65 in February.” Note that this declaration did nothing to improve my mood. I calmed my heart and replied, “Yes.” She went on to let me know that I only needed to pay for one month of Tri-Care coverage – I owed a little more than $12.00. (I would only need to pay for until my Medicare started.) I asked her if I could make payments. 😊
Insurance craziness done (for now). Back to the phone. This afternoon I pulled the trigger – I shut down the phone, waited, and restarted it. And wonder of wonders – it worked. My phone is again sending texts (for now).
So, what have I learned?
My phone did not care about my problem.
The various folks I called had only the information I provided to them and that was included in the file before them.
The insurance folks knew nothing about the calls I had made previously to others or the time I had spent on hold.
When I reset the phone – it worked, I can send texts.
When I reset my attitude and started each new encounter in a positive way and with information that the experts needed to help me – it worked, I got answers.
Every morning when we wake up, we need to reset our minds and hearts. Some of us awake with fear or apprehension about the day ahead. Others wake unsure about their status at work, in the family, in the world, with God.
We need a reset every single day.
We need to reestablish the settings that we have worked so hard to develop. John and I do this by starting our day reading scripture together and praying. Our morning prayer time (nothing written or formal; we talk to God like we talk to each other – except, I try to whine less) often include the following two thoughts:
“Thank You for the opportunities You will give us today.”
“At the end of the day, we pray that we will be able to see that we have been obedient to Your calling and Your love.”
It is our way of resetting ourselves to start the day.
Frustrated with the way things are going? Having tough conversations with others (or yourself, or God)?
Why not try a reset? Those things that we learned along our path make sense: “Start on the right foot.” “Begin with the end in mind.” “Trust God with everything.”
Just a thought on a Sunday afternoon.
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
p.s. Check out this promise from the Bible: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Thanksgivings were always crazy days at the Mullins’ house. The fun started the night before the holiday.
Mom would save the heals of the bread loaf throughout the fall. She would put the heals into the freezer and remind us that those were for “the dressing.” And, oh, what a joy it was for me to discover that my mother-in-law and my mom made exactly the same dressing recipe. (I dated a young man in college and we nearly married. But his mother put oysters in her dressing, so I should have known that the relationship was due to failure!) Mom and Mom’s dressing recipe was pretty simple: bread chunks, celery, onion, sausage (cooked and crumbled) and sage. A little bit of chicken broth was used to moisten the ingredients. That stuffing or dressing (depending on if it was cooked inside the bird or in a casserole dish outside) was amazing!
Anyway, the night before the holiday we would begin to break the bread. Mom had a huge metal bowl that was used to break the bread and to mix the dressing. The bread was never broken into small enough pieces, so Poppa would turn the bread chunks over and over with a large spoon to identify the pieces that needed to be torn into smaller pieces. It was fun and such a great chore.
On Thanksgiving, the bird would usually be in the oven before we kids got up. The morning was spent watching parades and noticing the growing aroma of turkey, baking in the oven.
We kids would help set the table. The table was fine with the plates and water glasses and special napkins and tablecloth. Mom had a “Thanksgiving family” of pilgrims made of paper towel and toilet paper rolls – they were a perfect centerpiece. But there was never much room on that table. That beautiful table (now residing in our home) seemed to moan as side dishes were added. There was the “relish tray” of pickles, olives, celery sticks and pickled beets. There were the hot sides of sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and dressing with gravy. There were two salads: one of cranberry, one of pears for my brother and me who did not care for cranberries. I loved Mom’s homemade dinner rolls, always served hot with butter and jam on the side. And, then there was the turkey. It was so amazing. The table was full of such amazing food.
After dinner, the dishes were washed and dried and the leftovers were piled into the refrigerator. Now, it was time for football and more parades. And, eventually, we would get to the pumpkin pie. Such wonderful memories.
John and I got married the day after Thanksgiving and our Thanksgivings have been less consistent in our traditions. Rest assured that we always had great fun and our meals were amazing. We had a great time this year, amazing food, and a wonderful day. But it was different in many ways. We were surprised with a ZOOM call that involved many family members and so much laughter! We enjoyed a camping trip. It was different, but great!
As I read social media posts about Thanksgiving two thoughts came to mind: some families were closer than ever, and others struggled more than ever. And I cannot tell you that there was a reason for either group. It was just a “different” Thanksgiving than ever before. And for some, it was not a joyous day for a variety of reasons.
My point with all of this – Thanksgiving was different this year. And, if that is true, if my impression is true across our families and friends….then what should we expect this Christmas?
Think about it…if 2020 brought a “different” type of Thanksgiving, then should not we prepare for Christmas to be even more different than ever before?
I do not want to be discouraging, I want us to prepare. I want us to have a better Christmas not a 2020 Christmas.
There is a Latin saying, “praemonitus, praemunitus” which can be loosely translated as “forewarned is forearmed.” In other words, if you have advance information, you can prepare yourself.
This is also a Biblical truth. The Apostle Paul writes about it in Ephesians 6. He says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
In other words, know that your struggle is not against the person who is tormenting you, but against the evil in this world. When we prepare and when we use the tools (the armor of God) that He has given to us, we can stand ready and be protected from the things that might harm us.
We do not have to have a “2020 Christmas.” No doubt this Christmas will be different, but we can prepare and make it a better holiday than one could ever imagine.
Friend, it is time for us to not give in to the masses who will say “it’s COVID, it’s 2020.” The struggles that many of us had over Thanksgiving will be worse during Christmas if we do not take and use the very tools of God: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation the word of God and prayer.
We need to prepare. Our families, our lives, our spiritual health depend on it.
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Greetings. Today is the first day of my “25 days of December” musings. I had planned to begin this blog on December 1st like I have for many years, or even on Thanksgiving as I have during some years. But this is 2020…need I say more?
I am fearful that that will be my excuse for years to come. Sometimes we just say “2020” in response to why something has happened, or something did not happen. Other times, we look at each other with a question mark seeming to appear between us and it is unspoken “2020?”
I remember other things that have happened where a quick reference to the past explained it all.
There was 2014 when we used phrases like, “It was lost in the flood” or “we haven’t found it since the flood.”
Then, after the flood clean-up was nearly done, my response to many questions was “It is packed.” We had packed so many things away in our every increasing number of storage units that, whatever you needed from me or I needed from me, was, indeed, probably packed away in a cardboard box in a metal room in a metal building behind a metal fence. Yes, “it is packed” became my excuse for so much. I need to buy a new shirt because “It is packed.” We really ought to buy more Christmas ornaments because “They are packed.” And, yes, because I had made the stupid decision to pack away our spices (not very useful when they were unpacked 5 years later), I had to buy more salt and pepper and cinnamon and so much more because “they are packed.”
There was the year that this phrase got me out of many volunteer opportunities, “I’m moving.”
And the favorite for years was “I have to work.”
There are others used in our social groups: “The grands are coming.” “I’m just beat.” “He is too tired.” “Gotta hang up, pizza guy is here.” “I cannot join you; zoom is beyond me.” “We have to shop for toilet paper.” Well, you get my point.
It is all true. But some were said to avoid doing something we could not do, or to give us an excuse to do something that we did want to do.
So, we have exactly three weeks until Christmas. Have you changed all your plans…well because you know it is “2020”? Have you already set yourself up for a dreary Christmas holiday? Are you escaping contact with the people you love because, you know, it is 2020?
Stop it!! You have time to make plans!! You can change your attitude!! You might not be all that jolly at this very moment, but you have every opportunity to improve the lives of others. (If you have to, throw those gifts across the yard!!)
Jesus told an amazing parable (or a story to make a point) about making excuses. I will end with this story and a reminder that it is NOT TOO LATE to do the right things this Christmas season…More about that tomorrow.
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
Matthew 14:12-24 (The Message)
Then He (Jesus) turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, do not just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You will be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”
That triggered a response from one of the guests: “How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!”
Jesus followed up. “Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’
“Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’
“Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’
“And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’
“The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on and bring them here.’
“The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded—and there’s still room.’
“The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’”
p.s. There is always room at Jesus’ table. We just have to take Him up on His offer of salvation and love and mercy and then do as He asks. Got questions? Let me know, I’ve got answers!!
My parents have a wonderful pastor in their church at Cedar Lake Village. During the week, this kind man works as a janitor in a local elementary school. I was blessed to be in the service when he shared this story.
One day, he walked into the cafeteria and saw a young boy (perhaps in kindergarten or first grade) standing nervously, by himself, against the wall. The lad looked scared and ready to bolt.
The Pastor/Janitor went over to the child and said, “Hey, Buddy, is everything ok? Are you alright?”
The boy looked up and nervously whispered, “I have a hole in my pants and everyone can see my underpants.” He looked around and with tears in his eyes said, “I don’t want them to see my underpants.”
The man looked down as the child moved his hand slightly. There was a small hole along the seam of the boy’s trousers. Knowing that he had a sewing kit in his office, the Pastor/Janitor said, “Buddy, I think we can fix that.”
The boy replied, “I know. I was just going to do that.”
When the man smiled quizzically, the child went on, “I was going to the bathroom to take off my underpants.”
At that, the Pastor/Janitor smiled even more and took him to his office where a couple of quick stitches with needle and thread solved the problem.
Today, when we find ourselves in trouble, afraid and embarrassed, let us look to God for His answer before we run off and try to fix things ourselves. His ways are always best.
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.
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!