Praemonitus, praemunitus

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. 

Love you!!

Jill (just one of God’s kids)


Ephesians 6:10-18 

“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.


“You know, 2020.”

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!!

His ways are best

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.


Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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!!